Christine Blasey Ford

Statement Condemning Contemptible Behavior of National Leadership Toward Kavanaugh Accusers

We are appalled and outraged that the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership has released a statement about comments of a sexual nature allegedly made by Julie Swetnick. Such a statement is unacceptable in all events, but particularly because it attempts to smear someone who has not had the opportunity to be interviewed by the FBI.  The release of this statement violates the intent of the Rape Shield Rule drafted by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 and voted into law by Congress in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. This federal rule is meant to safeguard the victim against the invasion of privacy, potential embarrassment and sexual stereotyping that is associated with public disclosure of intimate sexual details and the infusion of sexual innuendo into the factfinding process. The Senate Judiciary Committee has posted this statement on its website, in violation of the spirit of its own Rule.

In a sworn statement, Ms. Swetnick states she was sexually assaulted. Yet to date, she has not been interviewed by the FBI. Nevertheless, Senate leadership has engaged in a no-holds-barred personal attack on her.  It is not unusual for a survivor to describe an experience of sexual violence in ways that do not reveal the full reality of the experience or to try and normalize the experience. However, even aside from these very common reactions, it is unthinkable that the Senate Judiciary Committee would have released this statement publicly and attacked her in this way.

We are equally appalled and outraged by the President’s mocking of Dr. Blasey Ford on Tuesday. This behavior marks a new, and previously unimaginable, low point.  Through the tireless work of survivors, advocates and activists over the past decades, we have made progress in our national response to sexual assault.  Yet it seems the current majority leadership is bound and determined to set us back decades in our effort to help survivors feel comfortable coming forward.

We remind the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and all leaders that the country is watching. Women are watching as members and staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee try to shame a victim because of her alleged sexual history. Our children are watching as people who are supposed to be role models cheapen their offices and smear victims in an attempt to distract from a legitimate inquiry into the fitness of a Supreme Court candidate. Survivors are watching as people trivialize their experiences, mock them and make what was already an excruciatingly difficult decision to come forward that much more difficult.

This behavior is completely unacceptable. Ms. Swetnick, Dr. Ford, and all relevant witnesses must be interviewed, and these personal attacks and victim-blaming tactics must cease.   

For more information, contact Terri Poore at or Kiersten Stewart at

Letter to Senate Leadership RE: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

September 21, 2018


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley


Dear Senators:

As you know, the member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and its Territories. The NTF has worked for twenty-four years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, territorial, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable.  One of the primary tools we have to do our work is the Violence Against Women Act. We write now to apprise you of our intention to disengage from negotiations over VAWA reauthorization, and of the important reasons for this decision.

VAWA’s enactment in 1994 was a watershed moment for our nation. Its passage meant that our federal government finally acknowledged that domestic and sexual violence cause tremendous harm to individuals and society, and allocated resources to helping victims, improving the response of courts, prosecutors and law enforcement, and holding perpetrators accountable. Millions of people are better off as a result.

It’s time – way past time – to do much more to end this violence, and to protect our communities. That means investing more in prevention. That means increasing access to justice and safety for Native women. That means holding perpetrators accountable rather than punishing victims, and improving enforcement of protective orders. That means reducing homicides by ending abusers’ easy access to firearms. That means ensuring victims have access to safe housing and economic stability. That means reauthorizing VAWA with modest but meaningful improvements that enhance our nation’s response to these heinous crimes. That means moving forward - never backwards and never remaining static. This has been the trajectory of VAWA over the past twenty-four years: each time it has been reauthorized in a bipartisan manner with improvements to continue to enhance our nation’s response and prevention efforts.

The Steering Committee of the NTF has been working with community stakeholders and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for more than two years to develop and promote the best possible VAWA reauthorization bill for 2018.

However, we have grave concerns about the way the Senate Judiciary committee, under current leadership, has failed to demonstrate the lessons learned through the implementation of VAWA over the past twenty-four years. If the committee is not willing to engage in a process that upholds the dignity and safety of a person who has come forward to report that she was a victim of sexual assault, then they cannot pretend to care about the reauthorization of VAWA.  We will only engage in discussions with those members of Congress committed to doing this work with integrity; with those who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk—regardless of party.  

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s deeply troubling and highly credible allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, unwillingly made public, have put the issues of victim autonomy and safety, trauma-informed response, and proper investigation and assessment at center stage for the nation.

This, of all times, is the moment for your offices to demonstrate the great progress we have made as a country in our response to victims of gender-based violence. This is the moment for you to show that you are serious about implementing best practices for addressing sexual assault, and that you are committed to the work that VAWA makes possible in communities across the country. You could have—you should have—set an example for our country in your treatment of Professor Ford and her allegations. As subject matter experts, we have been available to you for advice and consultation for months, and we would have gladly assisted. 

Instead, your actions and comments in the past week have taken us back 25 years, as if VAWA never existed, as if all of the hard-won, evidence-based, best practices we have invested in as a nation were for naught. How can Congress legislate a coordinated community response for the nation, yet fail to live up to its own mandate?

This moment has become a crucible. It’s a test of our progress. Do we start by believing victims of sexual assault and treating them with dignity, or don’t we? So far, Senate leaders are failing that test. Prejudging the outcome of the hearing. Sympathizing with her perpetrator. Attacking her credibility. The public vitriol has been even louder and more toxic. She now must live in fear for her own safety and that of her children, and has had to flee her home and hire security. 

These attacks need to stop now. They send a message to every victim of sexual violence that their pain doesn’t matter, that they do not deserve justice, that – for them – fair treatment is out of reach. This will only serve to drive victims into the shadows and further embolden abusers.  

This is not a case of “he said, she said” – Professor Ford provided a detailed account, along with therapist notes from six years ago, and passed a lie detector test.  More corroborating evidence may be available if an investigation is undertaken. Yet she has faced death threats and has had to endure suspicion, ridicule, defamation, and scorn. Her identity was revealed without her consent, her motives have been questioned and her credibility has been attacked.  And now she’s being told effectively that she must be put on trial – immediately — before there is even a cursory independent investigation that could support her report.

No one is suggesting the committee ought to simply accept an allegation. In fact, as advocates, we are urging you to conduct a thorough investigation. But no fair investigation begins with attacking and trying to discredit the alleged victim. Congress must enlist the advice from experts to ensure they are educated in how to engage in trauma-informed questioning of Professor Ford. She is NOT on trial. She is not alleged to have done anything wrong. She is a person with important information about a man to whom you are about to offer a lifetime appointment on our nation’s highest court.

So, what should the process look like instead? As we explained in our September 18 letter to Senators Grassley and Feinstein, we propose three ground rules:

1.     First, consult with experts on sexual violence and trauma now. What you learn will help you make this process fair. Any hearing must include expert witnesses.  

2.     Second, conduct a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation. The notion that she should be cross-examined by Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney, interviewed by Senate staff with no training in sexual assault investigations, or called to testify with just a few days’ notice and told to take it or leave it, is insulting. It’s not a search for the truth; it’s a strategy to win a political game. Recognize that she is being traumatized again by this entire process, and needs support.

3.     Third, adhere to basic tenets of a trauma-informed approach:

·       Provide Professor Ford as much input as possible into the time, date and format of any questioning;

·       Ensure a safe and comfortable environment;

·       Allow her to have support people with her and to take breaks as needed;

·       Provide her with clear information about the process and allow her to ask questions and ask for clarification as needed;

·       Repudiate personal attacks on Professor Ford;

·       Refrain from inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions that have been refuted by research, such as suggestions that delayed reports of sexual assault are not credible or gaps in memory suggest dishonesty or emotions undermine credibility. None of that is true, as extensive research on the neurobiology of trauma has revealed.

Finally, we want Senators and the nation to understand that this is much bigger than a single Supreme Court nominee. This is about the 15-year-old girl who finds herself hiding in the bathroom, terrified. She is thinking “Is this how I will be treated if I come forward?” And the 17-year-old boy who finds himself emboldened to take without consent? He too is watching, and learning.

In this very public arena, with these incredibly high stakes, we need to get this right. What the Senate does next will send a message to victims and offenders everywhere, whether or not you intend to send a message.  And what will that message be? 

Justice demands a fair process that treats Professor Ford far better than with the derision, scorn, and humiliation to which Professor Hill was subjected 27 years ago.

 Justice demands that we respect that Professor Ford is a survivor of trauma, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee hear from experts on the lasting impact of trauma on survivors.

Justice demands that the hearing process be paused while the FBI reopens its investigation and talks to any witnesses with knowledge that bears on the information that Professor Ford has provided.

And finally, justice demands that the American people have confidence not only in the integrity and honesty of those who sit on the highest court, but also those responsible for giving their “advice and consent” to the President, and the process by which they give it. 

Senators, you can’t send that message with your words – you can only send it with your actions.

For more information, please contact Terri Poore at


The Steering Committee of National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

NTF Letter to Senators RE: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

September 18, 2018


The Honorable Chuck Grassley                             The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chairman                                                                   Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee                                              Senate Judiciary Committee
135 Hart Senate Office Building                            331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510                                          Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:

The member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and territories. The NTF has worked for twenty years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable. 

We write to express our opposition to the reported new process for assessing Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve as a Supreme Court Justice given recent reports of his sexual assault against a fellow high school student. We understand the Judiciary Committee’s keen interest in speaking to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who shared her story with a Member of Congress earlier this summer. However, we respectfully request that you consult with her as to the best time and manner for her to speak with you.

Importantly, with regard to your process, Dr.  Ford is not on trial.  She is a survivor of sexual assault who may or may not choose to share her story publicly. Your process is not a trial. It is an effort to gather information about the fitness of a man poised to receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. As advocates for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, we must strongly request you treat her in a victim-centered, trauma-informed manner.



We ask that you slow down the nomination process and allow a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation of the allegations out of the public eye. Dr. Ford was courageous in sharing her story. We are outraged to learn that some are suggesting she be cross-examined at an upcoming hearing by Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney; speak on the phone or be interviewed by staff about the incident; and/or be immediately called to testify before the committee. This suggests a rushed, adversarial process designed to intimidate or discredit her. Not only is this problematic for your process, it would also be deeply traumatizing for any survivor. A thorough investigation, wherein she is listened to objectively and any other relevant witnesses are spoken to, must be completed before any hearing is scheduled.

We strongly encourage you to consult with experts on the issues of sexual violence and trauma before deciding how to proceed with a future public hearing and to include expert witnesses on these issues at any public hearing.

Finally, we urge you to adhere to some basic tenets of a trauma-informed approach. For example:

·      Providing Dr. Ford as much input as possible into the time, date, and format of questioning.

·      Ensuring a safe and comfortable environment (emotionally and physically) for any questioning or hearing.

·      Allowing Dr.  Ford to have support people with her and take breaks as needed.

·      Repudiating any personal attacks on Dr. Ford.

·      Providing clear information to Dr. Ford about the process and encouraging and allowing her to ask questions and ask for clarification as needed ahead of time and throughout the process.

·      Refraining from inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions and negative judgments that have been refuted by research such as a suggestions that delayed reports of sexual assault are not credible; attacking credibility based on gaps in memory; and suggesting emotional presentation reflects on credibility.

Thank you for considering our requests. We stand ready to assist you in ensuring the process is fair. Please contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence with any questions.


The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence