Updated on Sept. 20 at 5:20 p.m. ET
The woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault revealed her identity Sunday in an interview with The Washington Post.
Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old California professor, accused Kavanaugh of groping her and trying to take her clothes off when they were both attending suburban Maryland high schools in the early 1980s.
In July, Ford reached out to her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein with her account of the incident, but requested confidentiality. Feinstein acknowledged her knowledge of the accusation last week but kept Ford's identity private until the Sunday Post article. Feinstein said she passed Ford's account on to the FBI.
Who is the accuser?
Ford is a professor and research psychologist in Northern California at Palo Alto University and the Stanford University PsyD Consortium, a clinical psychology program where she teaches statistics, research methods and psychometrics. She has been widely published in her field and, according to a 2016 book she co-authored, her consultation area of expertise is the interaction between pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Ford received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, master's degrees from Stanford University and Pepperdine University, and her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
In 2002, she married Russell Ford, in Half Moon Bay, Calif., according to a marriage announcement from the time. Russell Ford is a mechanical engineer and has worked for pharmaceutical and medical research companies. The Fords live in Palo Alto with their two sons, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Christine Blasey Ford grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and attended Holton-Arms School, a private preparatory school in Bethesda for girls in third through 12th grade.
The school's head, Susanna Jones, released a statement Sunday calling it "imperative" that Ford's story be heard. "As a school that empowers women to use their voices, we are proud of this alumna for using hers," Jones said.
A draft letter, appearing to be signed by more than 200 Holton-Arms alumnae from 1967 to 2018, called for an investigation into the allegation and said Ford's experience is one that is "all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves."
Jim Gensheimer, a friend of Ford's, told the San Jose Mercury News that Ford has been "trying to forget about this all of her life, basically" and that she has told him that she is afraid to sleep in bedrooms that do not have a second way out.
What does Ford say happened?
The alleged incident happened at a small party the summer before Ford's junior year, Ford's lawyer, Lisa Banks, said in an interview with Morning Edition's Rachel Martin. Kavanaugh was attending Georgetown Preparatory School, a private school in North Bethesda, Md., at the time.
"At one point she walked away to go to the bathroom and went up a small flight of stairs, at which point she was pushed into a bedroom. The door was locked behind her," Banks told NPR. "And Brett Kavanaugh got on top of her on the bed, pushed her down on the bed on her back, began groping at her, trying to take off her clothes."
Ford described Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, a second boy in the room, as "stumbling drunk" in her interview with the Post.
"When she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth to silence her. Mark Judge was in the room, egging him on. They turned up the music very loudly and at some point Mark Judge jumped on the bed, they all toppled off, and she was able to escape," Banks told NPR.
"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford told the Post. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."
The alleged incident happened more than 30 years ago, but Banks says Ford's recollection of the event is "crystal clear."
"I would also note that she has medical records that corroborate these allegations that far predate Mr. Kavanaugh's nomination," Banks added in her Morning Edition interview, referring to notes from a 2012 couples therapy session, which the Post reviewed. In the session, Ford described an attack during her high school years, although she did not name Kavanaugh explicitly. Ford told the Post that she did not tell anyone, including her husband, about the incident until 2012.
In a statement, Kavanaugh denied the allegation:
"This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity."
Mark Judge also denies the accusation that he witnessed the assault.
Why come forward now?
Banks said Ford struggled "mightily" with the decision to alert lawmakers to the alleged incident.
"She was weighing her desire and her belief that she had a civic duty to provide this information to those making the decision about Brett Kavanaugh with, frankly, her fear about coming forward," Banks told NPR. "And there was going to be great personal risk to her and her family in doing so. And given the political environment, and given how the nomination process was rolling along, she made the calculation that she did not want to come forward publicly."
Ford is a registered Democrat who has made small political contributions to Democratic organizations. In April 2017, she attended a March For Science in San Francisco, which was held to protest Trump administration cuts to research, and she signed a letter in June 2018 condemning the Trump administration's policy, since abandoned, of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.
Banks said Ford was not motivated by politics but ultimately decided to provide her account "so that those making a very important decision can make an informed decision with all the facts."
When Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, there were four women in the Senate and none on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thomas went on to be confirmed.
But Ford's accusation is coming to light in a different era. Now, with 23 women in the Senate — including four on the judiciary committee — and the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, Kavanaugh's future as a Supreme Court justice is in uncharted territory.