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Christine Ford’s high school yearbooks reportedly reference drinking and sex. That’s irrelevant.

Republicans might try to use the yearbooks to discredit her, but they have no bearing on whether she was sexually assaulted.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sits before the Senate Judiciary committee on September 27, 2018.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sits before the Senate Judiciary committee on September 27, 2018.
Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook recently became part of the conversation about sexual misconduct allegations against him. Now Republicans in Congress have tracked down Christine Blasey Ford’s yearbooks and are reportedly prepared to use them to question her credibility when she testifies before the Senate on Thursday concerning her allegations of misconduct by Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh described himself on his page of the Georgetown Preparatory School yearbook as a “Renate Alumnius,” which some former classmates say was part of a pattern in which Kavanaugh and other boys bragged about having sex with a girl named Renate Schroeder (now Renate Schroeder Dolphin). Kavanaugh’s lawyer now says the phrase was a reference to a kiss, and nothing more. Dolphin says she never kissed Kavanaugh and has called the yearbook joke “horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the website RealClearInvestigations reported that staffers for the Senate Judiciary Committee had acquired yearbooks from Ford’s time as a student at Holton-Arms School, near Georgetown Prep.

Kavanaugh’s yearbook, at least according to some former classmates, suggests that he made sexually demeaning jokes about girls, part of a larger pattern of allegations that he enjoyed sexually humiliating girls for his own and other boys’ amusement. Ford’s yearbooks, meanwhile, suggest that she possibly drank alcohol at parties. One is relevant to Thursday’s hearing; the other is not.

Whether Ford drank alcohol has no bearing on whether she was assaulted

A staffer for the judiciary committee, speaking anonymously, told RealClearInvestigations that Ford’s yearbooks could cast doubt on her character, and that prosecutor Rachel Mitchell might bring them up on Thursday. Ford “will not make a good witness,” the staffer said.

But the content of the yearbooks, at least as reported by RealClearInvestigations, has no bearing on whether Ford’s allegations are true. Among the reported revelations in the books are the following:

  • “a photo of an underage Ford attending at least one party, alongside a caption boasting of girls passing out from binge drinking”
  • references to “sexually promiscuous behavior” by girls at Holton-Arms, including with boys at Georgetown Prep
  • “beer bottles and beer cans and scenes of boys and girls drinking at parties”
  • “a photo of Ford and other girls at a Halloween party alongside a caption boasting of ‘pass[ing] out’ after playing ‘Quarters’ and other binge-drinking games”
  • “the young Holton coeds dressed as Playboy bunnies and posing seductively atop desks, school-uniform skirts hiked up”

Many of the images and captions referenced by RealClearInvestigations don’t appear to directly include Ford, but even if they did, whether she drank (even while underage) or had sex with boys at Georgetown Prep is not relevant to the question of whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

It has long been common for critics to dig through the past of those who come forward to report sexual assault, looking for evidence of drinking or sexual behavior that can be used to paint them as unreliable. This is one reason survivors are often afraid to come forward about their assaults. State legislators have increasingly recognized that past drinking or sexual behavior in no way invalidates a report of sexual assault, and have implemented rape shield laws to prevent such information from coming up in court.

No such laws apply to Thursday’s hearing since it is not a criminal trial, and it’s not yet clear whether Ford’s yearbooks will come up. What is clear is that, at least based on what we know from RealClearInvestigations, nothing in them should call her testimony into question.

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