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Watch: Christine Blasey Ford’s raw, emotional opening statement

Her testimony recalled the assault in detail.

Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Christine Blasey Ford has repeatedly said that she thinks it’s her civic duty to speak out about the sexual assault allegations she’s brought against Brett Kavanaugh. In powerful opening remarks at Thursday’s Senate hearing, the weight of what that means for the California professor became evident.

Ford grew emotional quickly as she spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee and recalled Kavanaugh forcing himself on her when she was in high school, attempting to remove her clothing, and covering her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied these allegations.

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” Ford said. “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 ... I felt I couldn’t not do it.”

Ford’s voice cracked as she began to describe her recollections of the alleged assault — something she was immediately criticized for — as her opening remarks effectively forced her to relive the entire encounter and recount it in detail:

Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me.

Brett [Kavanaugh] and Mark [Judge] came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me.

I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help.

Ford also described evidence that could corroborate her account, including statements she made during therapy when she had spoken about this incident. Her husband has said he recalls her mentioning Kavanaugh by name.

The main reason the assault even came up in therapy, Ford said, is because she needed to explain why she wanted a second door to her home:

The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home, and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand. In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail.

I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the US Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.

Ford provided additional insight into her reasoning for coming forward with the allegations, an issue she raised with her Congress member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) as early as the beginning of July, before President Trump had even selected Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee. Worry about the fallout for herself and her family kept her from going completely public with her identity sooner.

After Kavanaugh was selected and his confirmation was deemed “virtually certain” by the press, Ford said her anxiety only increased. She wondered if it was even worth it to put her reputation on the line and speak out if Kavanaugh was a sure thing. Her “sense of duty,” made her come forward, she told the lawmakers, but not without significant cost:

“My greatest fears have been realized — and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats,” she said. “Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life.”