Christine Blasey Ford: her 'terrible secret' sets off a US political firestorm

Washington (AFP) –


Christine Blasey Ford, who will appear Thursday at a high-stakes hearing to accuse US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, is a clinical psychology professor suddenly caught up in political tumult.

The 51-year-old teaches at Palo Alto University, south of San Francisco, in a consortium with Standford University -- and is now widely known as the first of several women to come forward with sexual assault allegations against President Donald Trump's pick for the nation's top court.

Blasey Ford in July sent a confidential letter detailing the alleged assault to her congresswoman, as well as veteran Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Then she spoke out herself, telling The Washington Post that Kavanaugh and one of his friends -- both "stumbling drunk" -- pinned her down, groped her and tried to pull off her clothes. Kavanaugh also covered her mouth when she tried to scream, she said.

She was 15 at the time of the alleged incident, while Kavanaugh was 17. Both were attending prep schools in the Washington area.

In prepared testimony released on Wednesday, Blasey Ford said she feared Kavanaugh would rape her during the attack, which she said occurred in the summer of 1982.

She said she had kept silent about the alleged incident until 2012, when she and her husband attended couples therapy.

But when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement earlier this year and Kavanaugh -- respected by many as an appellate court judge -- was mentioned as the potential replacement, Blasey Ford grew nervous.

- 'Terrible secret' -

"Her mind-set was, 'I've got this terrible secret," remembered her husband, Russell Ford in an interview with the Post.

"'What am I going to do with this secret?'"

"She wanted out," her 56-year-old husband told the Post. "She was like, 'I can't deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I'm moving to another country.'"

"'I cannot live in this country if he's in the Supreme Court.'"

The mother of two had taken care to keep her traumatic secret under wraps -- but revealing the details of the alleged assault has put her and her family smack in the center of a very public political firestorm.

And even as everyone from attackers on social media to Trump himself are questioning her integrity, Blasey Ford's appearance at Thursday's extraordinary public hearing could sink Kavanaugh's already jeopardized nomination.

"I am here today not because I want to," she will tell US lawmakers, according to prepared testimony that she will deliver at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"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."

"For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details," she will say.

"Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life."