Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault prior to his confirmation to the Supreme Court last year, made a rare public appearance on Sunday night to accept an award honoring her courage.
But Ford, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, admitted in her acceptance speech that she hadn’t felt at all brave when she publicly testified about her experience before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“When I came forward last September, I did not feel courageous,” Ford said as she accepted the Rodger Baldwin Courage Award at the ACLU of Southern California’s annual Bill of Rights dinner. “I was simply doing my duty as a citizen, providing information to the Senate that I believed would be relevant to the Supreme Court nomination process. I thought anyone in my position would, of course, do the same thing.”
Ford, who was the first of three women to publicly accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, said the judge had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh and a male friend had cornered her at a house party and pinned her to a bed, she claimed.
Kavanaugh then jumped on top of her, groped her and attempted to take her clothes off, Ford said. When she tried to scream, Kavanaugh, then 17, allegedly put his hand over her mouth to stifle the sound. Ford was 15 at the time.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,” Ford told lawmakers when asked what her most vivid memory of the alleged assault was. “I was underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
On Sunday, Ford ― who reportedly had to hire security personnel after receiving an onslaught of threats following her Senate testimony ― said a sense of “responsibility” to her country, students and children had inspired her to speak up.
Anita Hill had also been an inspiration, Ford said.
Hill testified before Congress in 1991 about the sexual harassment she said she’d experienced while working as an aide to then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Like Kavanaugh, Thomas was confirmed to sit on the nation’s highest court despite the misconduct allegations.
Ford said over 200,000 people from across the U.S. and around the world had sent her messages of support and “their own stories of assault and abuse” following her testimony.
“That’s why it means so much to me to be recognized by you tonight. Because I know you will continue the work of protecting sexual assault survivors and preventing sexual assault. You will continue the work to protect personal privacy and the rights of citizens,” Ford said.