Christine Blasey Ford’s memoir isn’t about Brett Kavanaugh but still suggests a #MeToo reckoning

Christine Blasey Ford’s memoir isn’t about Brett Kavanaugh but still suggests a #MeToo reckoning
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (Photo by Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)
(Variety / Penske Media via Getty Images)

Christine Blasey Ford’s memoir isn’t about Brett Kavanaugh but still suggests a #MeToo reckoning


Jackie Calmes April 4, 2024

Retribution seems to be all the rage these days on the right, given Donald Trumps chilling vow that it will be the driving force of his second term should he win one. So Republicans might have figured that Christine Blasey Ford, in her new memoir, would seek revenge against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and others, including Trump, who smeared her for publicly alleging in 2018 that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in suburban Washington.

Ford isnt vengeful, however. On the first page of One Way Back, the psychology professor and researcher writes, If you had asked me a couple years ago why I wanted to write a book, I would have said I wanted to destroy the people behind the political machine that ruined my life. Clearly, I wasnt ready to tell this story. You cant write a book based on vendettas.

Indeed, she doesnt dwell on Kavanaugh much at all beyond the inevitable recounting of her allegation, his denials and the death threats, second-guessing and search for an elusive normalcy that followed for her. She never mentions Kavanaughs right-wing record on the court: his vote for the Dobbs decision overturning a half-century of nationwide abortion rights (which provoked Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to charge that he’d misled her), or his support for pro-gun and anti-environmental rulings and others hes helped deliver as part of the Trump-inflated conservative supermajority.

No, this isnt about settling scores with Kavanaugh. And yet, whether Ford intended it or not, I came away from reading her book with a reinforced sense that he has faced is facing a reckoning of sorts, a very personal one, as the father of young daughters. Ill explain.

Ford eventually decided to write One Way Back to reply to and thank the more than 100,000 supporters and sexual assault survivors from all 50 states and 42 nations whose letters fill bins, boxes and binders, and cover the round table, in what used to be her dining room. And she seeks to answer for them and herself why society still fails to confront the fact that sexual assault remains so prevalent, with stigma carried by the victims instead of the perpetrators.

She also writes for the younger generations of women who are most vulnerable to that threat, and for the young boys, including my two sons, who hold so much power and potential to undo the injustice.

Its clear her own experiences inevitably helps inform how she raises her boys. I cant imagine them ever making a girl feel unsafe, she writes, and certainly not as Kavanaugh allegedly did when, drunk at 17, he sexually attacked the 15-year-old Ford and stifled her screams until she feared she might suffocate.

Ford sympathizes with parents of daughters, who experience the almost universal fear that parents of young girls possess when their children mature, go into the world independently and confront the danger inherent in being a young woman. She add


: I cant imagine what thats like.

I cautioned my two daughters, adults now, about that danger when they were in their late teens. I did so because of my own experiences as a young woman, including being sexually assaulted by the publisher at one of my first journalism jobs, and because of the experiences of some girlfriends. Id wondered back then, why didnt anybody warn us? I told my daughters that if they suffered sexual aggression, they should not blame themselves and should come to me immediately, whatever the circumstances.

That brings me to Kavanaughs comeuppance.

I believe, not least because I wrote a book about his rise and confirmation to the Supreme Court, that he did assault Ford in high school as well as Debbie Ramirez and a second woman at Yale College. I spoke with Ford and Ramirez many times, with their classmates and with people theyd each confided in years before they went public with their allegations after Trump picked Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

By mid-2018, the casualties of the #MeToo movement included titans of business, entertainment, sports and media entitled men who never deigned to think theyd be held accountable for their misconduct. But with Kavanaugh’s nomination, the movement essentially ran aground in Washington, as the powers of the patriarchal Republican Party, from serial assailant Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on down, mobilized to protect one of their own. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the narrowest margin for a justice since the 19th century.

His then-young daughters were often front and center at his confirmation hearing; to me and many others they seemed to be props along with his wife and a phalanx of female friends, meant to attest to Kavanaughs purported respect for women.

By now both


daughters have passed the age that Ford was at the time of her alleged encounter with Kavanaugh, and I give him enough credit as a father to think he surely has felt what Ford describes the almost universal fear that parents of young girls possess. And for him, it must be even worse. Ford doesn’t say this, not explicitly, but Kavanaugh in high school and college


the danger parents dread.

And he knows it.

Again, to quote Ford, I cant imagine what thats like. But I suspect its a punishment of sorts. Retribution even.


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