Coons questions Ford during Senate hearing

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday spoke with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about her allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The following is their conversation:

Sen. Coons: Dr. Ford, I want to begin by thanking you for coming to testify in front of us today. You came forward with very serious and relevant information about a nominee for a lifetime position on our Supreme Court. You didn’t have to, and I know you’ve done it at great personal cost. This is a public service and I want you to know that I’m grateful to have the opportunity to hear from you directly today.

I’d like to just first follow up on that line of questioning Ms. Mitchell was following because I think a lot of people don’t realize that you chose to come forward with your concerns about Judge Kavanaugh before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Do I understand correctly that when you first reached out to Congresswoman Eshoo and to the Washington Post tip line that was when he was on the short list but before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Is that correct?

Dr. Ford: Correct.

Sen. Coons: And if I understood your testimony earlier, it’s that you were motivated by a sense of civic duty and frankly a hope that some other highly qualified nominee might be picked, not out of a motivation at a late stage to have an impact on the final decision?

Dr. Ford: Correct. I felt it was very important to get the information to you but I didn’t know how to do it while there was still a short-list of candidates.

Sen. Coons: Thank you, doctor. According to Justice Department data, about two-thirds of sexual assault survivors don’t report their assaults. Based on your experience, I’d be interested in hearing from you about this because you bore this alone. You bore this alone for a very long time. And it would be helpful for us to better understand the ways that that’s impacted your whole life.

Dr. Ford: It’s impacted me at different stages of the development of my life. So the immediate impact was probably the worst, so the first four years. I think I described earlier a fairy disastrous first two years of undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, where I was finally able to pull myself together and then, once coping with the immediate impacts, the short-term impacts, I experienced longer term impacts of anxiety and relationship challenges.

Sen. Coons: Thank you for sharing that. And yet you went on to get a PhD from USC, is that correct?

Dr. Ford: Correct.

Sen. Coons: As you predicted, there was a wide range of responses to your coming forward. Some thousands of survivors have been motivated and inspired by your courage, others have been critical.

And as I’ve reviewed the wide range of reactions, I’ve been really troubled by the excuse offered by too many that this was a high school incident and ‘boys will be boys.’ To me that’s just far too low a standard for the conduct of boys and men in our country. If you would, I’d appreciate your reaction to the excuse that ‘boys will be boys.’

Dr. Ford: I can only speak for how it has impacted me greatly for the last 36 years even though I was 15 years old at the time. And I think you know the younger you are when these things happen it could possibly have worse impact than when you’re a full — when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills that you’ve developed.

Sen. Coons: Experts have written about how it’s common for sexual assault survivors to remember some facts about the experience very sharply and very clearly, but not others, and that has to do with the survival mode that we go into in experiencing trauma. Is that your experience and is that something you could help the lay person understand?

Dr. Ford: Yes. I was definitely experiencing the fight or flight mode. Is that what you’re referring to? Yes. So I was definitely experiencing the surge of adrenaline and cortisol and norepinephrine and credit that a little bit for my ability to get out of the situation, but also some other lucky events that occurred that allowed me to get out of the event.

Sen. Coons: Dr. Ford, we are grateful that you came through it and that you shared your account with us and the American people, and I think you’ve provided important information. I’d like to thank you for meeting your civic duty. I wish we could have provided for you a more thorough hearing today. I think asking for the FBI to investigate this matter thoroughly was not asking too much. I think asking to have the other individual involved in your assault, Mark Judge, appear before us today was not asking too much. I’m grateful you came forward and I’m thankful for your courage which set an important example. Thank you Dr. Ford.

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