Brett Kavanaugh, a Washington D.C. native, had very serious accusations made against him by three women: Dr Christine Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. For the sake of this article, though, I will just explore Dr Ford’s allegation (but please comment if you want me to write about Ms Ramirez and Ms Swetnick – I would be happy to do so!).
Dr Christine Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, wrote a letter in July to Representative Anna Eshoo and Senator Dianne Feinstein which said that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in Bethesda, Maryland, when the two were in high school. On September 16th, the Washington Post published an article that identified Ford as the accuser and detailed her allegation that a “stumbling drunk” 17-year-old Kavanaugh pinned her down, put his hand over her mouth, and groped her while his friend watched. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford told The Post, “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing”. The Post said that it confirmed Ford’s account with an interview with her husband, a lie-detector test from her lawyer, and notes from therapy sessions that included mentions of a “rape attempt” by students from an “elitist boys’ school” who would become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington”. Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge was in the room, and she said she was able to get away after Judge jumped on them.
If true, this allegation is disqualifying for Mr Kavanaugh. If true, this is not just some ‘boys will be boys’ prank – it is a serious assault which verged on rape. However, a very firm believer of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ I decided that I would do my own investigation, looking past @emrata’s Instagram story and the petitions my friends furiously urged their Instagram followers to sign. I came up with 2 theories. They are as follows: 1. Dr Ford’s claims are not credible, or 2. Dr Ford genuinely believes that she was assaulted by Brett Kavanagh but the events which occured that night occured differently to what she reports.
Honestly, I find it saddening that one of my theories is that Dr Ford’s claims are not credible – I really, really wish it wasn’t. However, through my research, I found it extremely difficult to think otherwise. The main aspect of Dr Ford’s testimony which I found the most suspicious were her (frankly ever-changing) memories of the night. In a July 6 text to the Washington Post, Dr Ford recounts the alleged assault occurring in the “mid 1980s”, in July 30th, her letter to Senator Feinstein recalled the event occurring in the “early 80s”. Conversely, the September 16th Washington Post article reported that Dr Ford said the event happened in the “summer of 1982”. Similarly, the September 16th article reported that notes from an individual therapy session in 2013 present Dr Ford describing the assault as occurring in her “late teens”. But she told the Post and the Committee that she was 15 when the assault allegedly occurred. Although it is common for victims to be uncertain about dates, Dr Ford failed to explain how she was suddenly able to narrow the timeframe to a particular season and particular year.
Next, Ford has struggled to identify Judge Kavanaugh as the assailant by name. No name was given in her 2012 marriage therapy notes, or in her 2013 individual therapy notes. Dr Ford’s husband claims to recall that she identified Judge Kavanaugh by name in 2012 – at that point, Judge Kavanaugh’s name was widely reported in the press as a potential Supreme Court nominee if Governor Romney won the presidential election. In any case, it took Dr Ford over 30 years to name her assailant. However, according to a memo by Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, delayed disclosure of abuse is common so this is not incriminating.
Dr Ford has also had trouble specifying the description of the incident. She testified that she told her husband about a “sexual assault” before they were married, but she told the Washington Post that she informed her husband that she was the victim of “physical abuse” at the beginning of their marriage. She testified that, in both times, she was referring to the same incident.
Not only has Christine Ford not recounted the details of the incident consistently, she has no memory of key details of the night in question. She does not remember who invited her to the party or how she heard about it; she does not remember how she got to the party; she does not remember in what house the assault allegedly took place or where that house was located with any specificity; but most importantly, she does not remember how she got from the party back to her house. This has raised significant questions. She told the Washington Post that the party took place near the Columbia Country Club, which is 7 miles from her childhood home – she, indeed, testified that it was roughly a 20-minute drive. She also agreed for the first time in her testimony that she was driven somewhere that night, either to the party or from the party or both, however, she has no memory of who drove her nor when. Nor has anyone come forward to identify or herself as the driver. Frankly, it is a shame that she cannot remember these details, as they would have helped with her case.
Ford’s account of the party’s attendants has also been inconsistent. According to the Washington Post’s account of her therapy notes, there were four boys in the bedroom in which she was assaulted. However, she told the Washington Post that the notes were erroneous because there were four boys at the party, but only two in the bedroom. When listing the boys, Dr Ford listed Patrick “PJ” Smyth as a “bystander” in her statement to the polygrapher and in her July 6th test to the Washington Post, however, in her testimony she said that it was inaccurate to call him a bystander. Moreover, she did not list Leland Keyser even though they are good friends. However, during her first statement to the Committee, Ms. Keyser stated though counsel that, “[s]imply put, Ms Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr Ford.”
It’s not the evidence that makes me the most sceptical though, it’s the timing and manner of Dr Ford’s accusation. Why, when Dr Ford decided to finally confront her experience, did she go to political figures instead of law enforcement? Why did she choose the most public platform in the world to share her story? Finally, and most importantly, why did she come out with her story immediately after Brett Kavanaugh received his Supreme Court nomination?
However, I have not considered an extremely important aspect of this accusation. Dr Ford must have had severe psychological impacts if her allegations were, in fact, the truth. I have seen videos of Dr Ford recalling her experience – I believe that she truly believes that she was harassed by Judge Kavanaugh, but the reality is that her memory may be misleading, and Brett Kavanaugh was not the person who harassed her. None of the evidence she has provided can solidly place Judge Kavanaugh at the scene of the event, there are no witnesses who have come forward to endorse her accusation, and finally, Dr Ford’s shocking lack of continuity in her testimony make me believe that Judge Kavanaugh was not the 17-year-old boy who harassed her.
Since the majority of the main-stream media articles merely cover the impact of this issue on Dr Ford, I would like to cover the impact of this issue on Brett Kavanaugh. The notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has not been granted to Judge Kavanaugh; instead, the allegations alone from these three women have caused an outcry in Western media, with figures around the globe condemning him. Over these past few weeks, the Kavanaugh family (Mr and Mrs Kavanaugh and their two young daughters, Liza and Margaret) have been treated appallingly. Mr Kavanaugh’s reputation has been entirely ruined, tainted with horrific claims of gang-rape from Ms Swetnick and claims of indecency from Ms Ramirez.
That being said, Dr Ford clearly is suffering from the psychological impact of a traumatic event. Sexual harassment and assault are not something which should be taken casually, and both require action in the form of a comprehensive independent investigation that can corroborate the evidence put forward. In the age of #MeToo, we have seen more and more women come forward about the realities of the sexual violence they have faced – a trend that should be encouraged as it ensures accountability and allows understanding of the widespread nature of such events. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, and are seeking help, contact: http://www.womensequality.org.uk/support, or call 0808 802 9999 – this is something which should be taken with the utmost priority.