The Second Anniversary of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Reminds Us What’s At Stake
Two years ago on this day, September 27, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the U.S. Senate, recounting her experience of being sexually assaulted by then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. One year into the mainstream emergence of the #MeToo movement, Ford’s decision to come forward, and her devastating but resonant testimony, underscored the ongoing cultural reckoning on what constitutes justice for survivors.
This year, the anniversary of Dr. Ford’s testimony comes within days of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and a new vacancy on the high court that’s created unprecedented urgency to preserve the human rights of women, LGBTQ folks, people of color, and immigrants. In this moment of escalated, partisan conflict around a Supreme Court nomination, many of us have been transported back to the nomination process of Kavanaugh, in which women and survivors were forced to lay bare their trauma — only to be told their experiences didn’t matter.
“I am here today not because I want to be,” Dr. Ford testified before the Senate. “I am terrified.” She recounted how the assault “drastically altered [her] life,” and spoke about how the fear and shame she felt as a result of Kavanaugh’s actions silenced her for years.
Dr. Ford also described reliving this trauma “in front of the entire world” upon coming forward with her accusation. “Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life,” she said.
Over the course of the “couple of weeks” Dr. Ford described, the nation’s president used his platform to call her a liar, question her motives, and smear and shame survivors of sexual violence broadly. Trump not only claimed Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony marked a “scary time for young men,” but also repeatedly questioned why she hadn’t reported the assault earlier.
His tweets led to the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, in which thousands took to Twitter to describe the threats, fears, and barriers that stopped them from reporting their assaults.
At the same time survivors were sharing their stories, media outlets and politicians were also contributing to Kavanaugh’s defense, constantly reminding the public that Kavanaugh had been a coach to his daughter’s basketball team, and highlighting a letter of support for him signed by dozens of women with whom he had gone to school. The implication was that some women’s positive experiences with an abuser can be universalized to erase the violence and trauma he’s enacted on other women.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation not only had implications for what justice looked like for Dr. Ford, but has ultimately affected what justice looks like for millions, and highlighted the intersections between sexual violence and reproductive coercion. Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court in October, 2018, and since, within two years of his appointment, after previously voting to deprive an undocumented minor abortion access on the Ninth Circuit, Justice Kavanaugh recently voted against abortion rights in June Medical Services v. Russo. His vote came as politicians across the country have been using the pandemic to advance their anti-abortion agenda. Kavanaugh has also used his vote on the bench to not only attack reproductive rights, but launch dehumanizing attacks on women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and the environment.
The anniversary of Dr. Ford’s testimony marks a somber reminder of what’s at stake this election year, and in light of the recent vacancy at the Supreme Court left by the late Justice Ginsburg. President Trump has made clear his intention to appoint more men like Kavanaugh to Ginsburg’s vacancy, as well as any future vacancies given another term — from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, who recently denied pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition, to Sen. Tom Cotton, who tweeted calling for the end of Roe v. Wade within minutes of Trump releasing his Supreme Court shortlist. Trump has already appointed more judges than Presidents Obama or George W. Bush did in both of their terms.
Courts have the potential to decide the future of nearly every policy, from the environment to immigration to health care, and certainly, reproductive rights, which have been on the chopping block for years. Given another term, Trump could easily shift the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative-majority to a 7-2 majority, and fill judgeships across the country with even more extremists.
Two years after Dr. Ford’s courageous testimony, everything is at stake for women and survivors, for human rights and for the future. Her bravery and sacrifice call on each of us to meet this moment, and commit to fighting for a court system and political representation that listens to our voices, and protects our human rights.