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Woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault comes forward

Brett Kavanaugh faces a committee vote on his nomination Thursday.
Brett Kavanaugh faces a committee vote on his nomination Thursday.(Eric Thayer/New York Times/File 2018)

WASHINGTON — Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.

Now Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.

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Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both ‘‘stumbling drunk,’’ Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

‘‘I thought he might inadvertently kill me,’’ said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in Northern California. ‘‘He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.’’

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom, then fled the house.

Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students ‘‘from an elitist boys’ school’’ who went on to become ‘‘high-ranking members of society in Washington.’’

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In an interview, her husband, Russell Ford, said that in the 2012 sessions, she recounted being trapped in a room with two drunken boys, one of whom pinned her to a bed, molested her, and prevented her from screaming. He said his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh — then a federal judge — might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.

On Sunday, the White House stood by Kavanaugh, while a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee joined Democrats in urging for a delay in the confirmation process.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, ‘‘must be heard’’ and urged the committee not to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until it has a chance to hear more from her.

‘‘I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,’’ said Flake. ‘‘For me, we can’t vote until we hear more.” Republicans hold a 11-to-10 majority on the panel.

The White House said it is not withdrawing Kavanaugh’s nomination. A vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee remains scheduled for Thursday.

The White House sent the Post a statement Kavanaugh issued last week, when the outlines of Ford’s account first became public: ‘‘I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.’’

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Through a White House spokesman, Kavanaugh declined to comment further and did not respond to questions about whether he knew Ford during high school.

Reached by e-mail Sunday, Judge declined to comment. In an interview Friday with The Weekly Standard, he denied any such incident occurred. ‘‘It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way,’’ Judge said. He told The New York Times that Kavanaugh was a ‘‘brilliant student’’ who loved sports and was not ‘‘into anything crazy or illegal.’’

Christine Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in a consortium with Stanford University, training graduate students in clinical psychology. Her work has been published in academic journals.

A registered Democrat who has made small contributions to political organizations, she contacted her congresswoman, Democrat Anna Eshoo, in July. She later sent a letter via Eshoo’s office to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. In the letter, Ford described the incident and said she expected her story to be kept confidential. She signed the letter as Christine Blasey, the name she uses professionally.

For weeks, Ford grappled with concerns about what going public would mean for her and her family — and what she said was her duty as a citizen to tell the story.

She engaged Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer known for her work on sexual harassment cases. On the advice of Katz, who believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward, Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. The results, which Katz provided to the Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.

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By late August, Ford had decided not to come forward, calculating that doing so would upend her life and probably would not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Her story leaked anyway.

“Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation,’’ she said, explaining her decision to come forward.

Ford said the incident occurred in 1982, when she was 15, around the end of her sophomore year at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the end of his junior year at Georgetown Prep. At the time, Ford said, she knew Kavanaugh and Judge as ‘‘friendly acquaintances.’’

Ford said she remembers that it was in Montgomery County, not far from the country club, and that no parents were home at the time. Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party. Those individuals did not respond to messages on Sunday.

In his senior-class yearbook entry at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh made several references to drinking, claiming membership to the ‘‘Beach Week Ralph Club’’ and ‘‘Keg City Club.’’

Judge is a filmmaker who has written for the Daily Caller, The Weekly Standard, and The Washington Post. He chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in ‘‘Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk,’’ which described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school.

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Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach makes glancing reference to a ‘‘Bart O’Kavanaugh,’’ who ‘‘puked in someone’s car the other night’’ and ‘‘passed out on his way back from a party.’’

Through the White House, Kavanaugh did not respond to a question about whether the name was a pseudonym.