On Blasey Ford, Innocence, Evidence and #MeToo

Since September 13th, when Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she possessed a letter alleging Judge Brett Kavanaugh had attempted to rape a woman while they were both in high school, I have been riveted to the news, to each breaking item, and to the investigation that followed.

Initially, I believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford wholeheartedly.

By Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, in one of the fastest-paced news cycles in my memory, my opinion shifted from one firmly on Blasey Ford’s side, to one that questioned whether she ever believed Kavanaugh had been her assailant at all.

How did I get here? It’s been a wild ride.

When I first read Dianne Feinstein’s letter, I was flippant: “Oh, an anonymous accuser. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if her name is leaked.” (Yeah, I saw that coming. I’ve been in politics for too long.) In my view, if the author was not willing to put her name to her allegations, her allegations were worth the paper on which they were written.

The next day, the Washington Post published its interview with Ford and because she provided her name and the account she offered seemed plausible, my initial reaction was to believe her. I read the article to my boyfriend and said something along the lines of “Damn it… I guess Kavanaugh assaulted someone in high school, but the victim’s only just reporting it. Guess we should have appointed Barrett [Amy, a conservative woman that had also been on Trump’s shortlist of potential nominees prior to his selection of Kavanaugh] instead. That’s not gonna be good for mid-terms.”

I took her seriously her because I recognize that women accusing men of sexual assault are not frequently lying. I believed her because she put her name to the allegation, which meant severe blowback if her claims were false. I believed her because she named other classmates at the party– people that I immediately recognized could likely be tracked down for confirmation of her claim. I believed she was unlikely to make up a party with other known people in attendance, knowing the media would immediately find and question them. I believed her because she is a professional, with a life and career other than chasing the media spotlight (read: Michael Avenatti) and with only her testimony and Kavanaugh’s denial on which to base my decision, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I took her seriously her because I know what it’s like to have your abuse dismissed and had I been in her shoes, I would have wanted to be believed (or at least had my allegations treated seriously).

Trust but verify. We must take women’s accusations seriously and be unafraid to follow the evidence where it leads.

Immediately, the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Ford to speak to them– publicly or privately– and Kavanaugh called for a hearing to clear his name. Quickly, Ford offered the names of every person she alleged had attended the party: Leland Keyser, PJ Smyth, and Mark Judge.

In short order, these individuals provided sworn statements (under threat of perjury) to the Senate Judiciary Committee saying that they did not remember the party or having known Christine Ford. Christine Ford’s friend (who she later claimed was the person with whom she had arrived at the party) Leland Keyser likewise claimed to not recall having ever mett Brett Kavanaugh nor attended any party with him at any point in time. That was the first moment I hesitated, though I didn’t immediately think too much of it. I did make a mental note to remember that Leland Keyser didn’t remember having met Kavanaugh, because that ruled out her being with Ford at any party, at any time, where Kavanaugh was present. It seemed far more likely she’d remember a guy she hung out with sometimes than whether he was at a particular party three+ decades earlier.

Then Kavanugh scrounged up a calendar from 1982 (who does that?!?!) that showed he was out of town most weekends (cue another shift in Blasey Ford’s claim, from, “The party probably happened on a weekend,” to “It also could have happened on a weekday.”) and that he listed the parties he attended and the friends that were there. Christine Ford’s party wasn’t listed.

This was influential to me for a couple of reasons:
1. Why dig up a calendar that old unless you’re 100% certain it will contribute to your innocence? This was the moment I became convinced he was never blackout drunk in high school, regardless of how drunk he was. Occam’s Razor: If he was guilty of attempting to rape Ford, there was no reason to find and present the calendar. No one expects a person to keep a calendar for decades or to keep such a detailed calendar. No one would have ever questioned whether he retained a calendar for 36 years. It was 36 years ago– there’s no way he remembered whether he had inscribed a particular party on his calendar. The only reason it made sense to search for and present the calendar was if he remembered every moment of high school and thus knew for a fact that he never partied with Dr. Ford and thus no such party would be listed.

2. The calendar showed other parties and listed the friends in attendance, but did not include this party in particular. Nowhere in Blasey Ford’s claim did she seem to allege the attempted rape had been premeditated, nor did anything about the alleged crime suggest that. Ergo, the party should have been recorded in his calendar if he’d attended.

At this point, I became convinced that her assailant was not Kavanaugh. I believed that she believed he did it, but the calendar convinced me she was mistaken.

On Thursday, before/during/after her testimony,  more changed. In rapid succession:

  • Sen. Feinstein released her entire letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI wherein she finally turned over Dr. Ford’s note, along with the letter itself.
    Dr. Ford had been on vacation in Delaware when she wrote the letter and had flown home, in contradiction to claims that she was too traumatized and afraid to fly. In her questioning, Rachel Mitchell quotes media reports referencing Dr. Ford’s alleged fear of flying and Dr. Ford says that it’s true, friends helped her “get up the gumption” to fly. She then follows it by noting that she actually flies to Delaware every year. We found out that she also spent a year flying around Hawaii for her PhD studies.
  • Dr. Ford changed her testimony regarding the number of people at the party. The therapist’s notes reviewed by the Washington Post had said there were four attackers involved in Dr. Ford’s assault. Dr. Ford told them that was a mistake in transcription; there had been four boys in total at the party and two involved in her assault. In her letter to Sen. Feinstein, she stated that there were four people present at the party other than her. She testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that a female friend had also attended: Leland Ingham (now Keyser).  On the stand, she stuck with that claim: Four boys + Leland, who denies remembering the party or having met Kavanaugh.
  • Dr. Ford changed her story about the layout of the home where the party took place. She testified in her letter to Feinstein that the home had a “short “stairwell that cut up from the living room. To the Washington Post, she described leaving the family room to head upstairs and running through the living room on her way out the door. On the stand, she called it a “narrow” stairwell and described the living room/family room area as being small and combined. This change came after the Senate Judiciary Committee published a schedule detail indicating its investigators had visited the two party homes from that era in the geographic area she specified and concluded that the floorplans did not match her description. 
  • Dr. Ford changed the breadth of the geographic area in which the assault could have taken place. In her letter to Sen. Feinstein, she claimed the party took place in a “suburban Maryland area home.” To the Washington Post, she said the party took place in “Montgomery County, not far from the Country Club.” On the stand, she updated that to say that the party may have taken place anywhere within a 20-minute drive radius from the country club and her home.
  • The PaloAlto Post dug up Dr. Ford’s remodel permit that allowed her to add doors to her home and found it was filed in 2008. They thought this would defend her: A friend told the WSJ that she needed a second door out of her bedroom because of the assault and it was true! She’d added a door to her bedroom. Problem: On the stand, Dr. Ford testified that the door she’d added because of claustrophobia was a front door. However, the second front door was added to allow for an ADU (Additional Dwelling Unit) that can be and often has been sealed from the main residence. That door does not create an additional egress for Ford; it is the primary egress and mail-receiving door for tenants. This contradicted her testimony that she and her husband were fighting over the irrational addition of this unnecessary second front door in 2012, leading them to a marriage counselor where she disclosed the attempted rape.
  • Dr. Ford lived in a 500 sq. ft. apartment in Palo Alto prior to her marriage to her husband and purchase of their home.  An ex-boyfriend of eight years sent the Senate Judiciary Committee a letter noting specific years that he and Dr. Ford had been friends, then dated, then had a long-distance relationship. He noted in the letter that she had lived in a tiny apartment with just one door for a portion of their relationship without ever complaining about claustrophobia. This also contradicted her testimony that claustrophobia arose as a result of her attempted rape in high school.
  • Dr. Ford helped her best friend (Monica McLean) prepare for a polygraph she took prior to beginning work for the FBI. Though Monica McLean’s lawyer disputed this after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Dr. Ford has not disputed it (despite her lawyers disputing other claims made in sworn statements) and neither Ford or McLean have disputed any other portion of his letter. I thus think that it is safe to surmise that McLean believes it unlikely the Senate will pursue perjury charges against her and that Dr. Ford’s ex-boyfriend is telling the truth. This contradicted Dr. Ford’s testimony under oath that she had “never” provided anyone with tips or recommendations for taking a polygraph and belies the claim that she was extremely stressed by the polygraph, didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t even sure what to call the sensor attached her for the polygraph.
  • Dr. Ford did not name Kavanaugh in the polygraph statement on which her polygraph results were released, nor did she specify any time more specific than the “80’s.” Her lawyers will not release the series of questions she was asked in response to her interview or whether she passed them.
  • Dr. Ford’s attempted rape was alleged to have taken place across a variety of contradicting time frames. In Dr. Ford’s text to the Washington Post, she said it had happened in the “mid-80’s.” In her 2013 therapy notes reviewed by the Washington Post, she alleged to have been assaulted in her “late teens.” In her letter to Sen. Feinstein, she said the assault happened in the “summer of 1982 when she was 15.” In her polygraph statement, she crossed out “early” leaving only the “80’s”. Her lawyers refuse to release her therapy notes so others can independently verify what they may have said.
  • Finally, Dr. Ford testified that she was driven home from the party but cannot explain who drove her, how someone knew to pick her up, or why her best friend at the party didn’t think it was weird she left early, didn’t question how she got home, and never followed up to ensure Dr. Ford was okay. So she left a party early, unexpectedly, by her own account under oath, did not stop to gather her things or call anyone, and was magically able to immediately get in a car with someone and drive home. Her best friend didn’t follow up with a phone call to ask where she went. No one asked why she left the party early or whether she got home safely. No one has come forward to say they drove her. No one noticed she seemed uncomfortable.

Here’s where it gets conspiratorial. Remember Monica McLean, the FBI agent she helped with a polygraph?

  • McLean was the “beach friend” that encouraged Dr. Ford to send her letter to Senator Feinstein.
  • Dr. Ford was visiting McLean’s current city (McLean is now retired) in Delaware when she wrote the letter.
  • McLean texted Leland Keyser, after she submitted her written statement, pressuring her to “clarify her story,” according to the Wall Street Journal. 
  • McLean signed the letter of Holton Arms students supporting Ford.
  • McLean was with Ford during her testimony on Thursday.
  • When McLean was in the FBI, she worked as a PIO for the Southern District of New York, sometimes in cooperation with Preet Bharara, a district attorney fired by President Donald Trump, who was previously Senior Counsel for Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer.
  • Dr. Ford’s delay (alleged to be due to an inability to fly) of the hearing between her and Kavanaugh allowed just enough time for Deborah Ramirez to finish deliberating whether to come forward and for Avenatti to find a trash human willing to lie about horrible things.  I will not be naming Avenatti’s client because she clearly sought only the spotlight. I will not be granting her that.

Like me, Senator Chuck Grassley would now like to know: How much of Dr. Ford’s timeline was conspiracy?

If she really disclosed the assault because of a dispute over doors, why was that door permitted four years before her disclosure? Why was it not set up to alleviate her trauma?

Why did she lie about having helped someone with a polygraph? If she really told her therapist she was assaulted at 15 in 1982, why won’t she release her therapist’s notes?

If she really passed the polygraph, why won’t her lawyers release the questions she was asked in relation to her interview and her answers to them?

Even to a completely rational mind, this all sounds very strange and deceptive.

That is how I, a survivor of child abuse and a woman whose abuse was dismissed because I wasn’t old enough to be believed, came to disbelieve another woman. I believe she suffered abuse at the hands of men and I believe she’s telling a true story, but her shifting timeline and changing details have led me to believe that someone besides Brett Kavanaugh was her attacker.

Many women will not have corroborating evidence because their abuse takes place in secret and they are too ashamed to confide in anyone, too afraid of being blamed. This must change. 

Dear friends, have courage! Share your experiences! Report evil men, if not for your own sake, for the sake of other women that may be abused by them in the future.

Treat every allegation seriously (nearly every woman has a story) but please, be courageous enough to follow where the evidence leads. 


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