The powerful testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, detailing allegations that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her 36 years ago, has prompted an emotional outpouring of support and solidarity across the world.
The university professor was close to tears as she spoke of how she was “terrified” speaking at the momentous Senate hearing on Thursday that could determine whether Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the lifetime job in the highest court in the country.
Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee that during the alleged incident at a gathering of teenagers when she and Kavanaugh were high school students in Maryland she thought Kavanaugh was going to rape her and perhaps accidentally kill her.
Reading from her prepared testimony, her voice breaking with emotion, she said: “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said a drunken Kavanaugh attacked her and tried to remove her clothing at a gathering of teenagers in Maryland when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
“Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help,” Ford said, adding that Kavanaugh and a friend of his were “drunkenly laughing during the attack”.
“I am an independent person and I am no pawn,” Ford told the committee, a reference to claims from some Republicans and Trump that she is part of a smear campaign.
Her remarks ahead of facing questions from a prosecutor hired by Republicans caused many to express empathy for Ford.
The reaction inside and outside the committee room appeared to be the same.
Democratic congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was seen wiping away tears in the audience.
Others noted Blasey Ford’s bravery.
Journalists had read the text before the hearing, but it still appeared to shock when delivered in person.
Her statement was all the more extraordinary given the make-up of the committee room.
In his prepared testimony, Kavanaugh again “unequivocally and categorically” denied her allegation, as well as “other false and uncorroborated accusations” by his other accusers.
“Sexual assault is horrific. It is morally wrong. It is illegal. It is contrary to my religious faith. And it contradicts the core promise of this nation that all people are created equal and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Kavanaugh said.
The committee could vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday, with a final Senate vote early next week.