US & Canada

Kavanaugh accuser says alleged assault 'altered my life'

Christine Blasey Ford Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Christine Blasey Ford says Brett Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to take off her clothes; he denies it

The first woman to accuse US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct has said the assault "drastically altered" her life.

It is part of the written testimony Prof Christine Blasey Ford has released before she appears at a crucial Senate panel hearing later on Thursday.

Judge Kavanaugh, who will also testify, has strenuously denied the accusation.

However fresh allegations, which the judge also denies, have appeared as the hearing looms.

Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation to the highest US court has been delayed in the wake of the allegations against him.

The nine-member Supreme Court is the final word on US law, including highly contentious social issues and challenges to government policy.

What will Prof Ford say?

In written testimony provided ahead of Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Prof Ford says: "It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth."

She alleges Mr Kavanaugh tried to drunkenly remove her clothing, pinned her to a bed and groped her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17.

"Brett's assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details," she wrote in her prepared statement.

"I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened."

She says Mr Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge locked her in a bedroom during a small gathering at a house in Washington DC suburbs in the summer of 1982.

"Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack," she said. Mr Judge has disputed the allegations, saying he does not recall the incident.

"I believed [Brett Kavanaugh] was going to rape me," she said. The fact that he covered her mouth she says "terrified" her the most, and has had "the most lasting impact".

"It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me."

When Mr Judge jumped on the bed, she says "we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me." She was then able to run from the room.

What other accusations does Mr Kavanaugh face?

  • Deborah Ramirez. The former Yale University classmate has said that Mr Kavanaugh once exposed himself to her at a dormitory party in the 1980s. She alleges the incident occurred during a drinking game and remembers Mr Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his trousers
  • Julie Swetnick. A Washington DC resident. In a sworn affidavit she alleges Mr Kavanaugh was involved in the drugging and sexual assault of girls at house parties in the 1980s. She says she was the victim of a gang rape in 1982 at a party attended by the judge, although he was not involved
  • Anonymous. A woman sent a letter to a Colorado senator alleging her daughter had witnessed Mr Kavanaugh pushing a woman he was dating "very aggressively and sexually" against a wall in 1998
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Media captionWhy it can take sexual assault allegations years to come out

What will Brett Kavanaugh say?

He has also released prepared written testimony ahead of the hearing.

He denies Prof Ford's allegation "immediately, unequivocally, and categorically".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brett Kavanaugh was seen as a safe choice for Supreme Court nominee

Mr Kavanaugh says: "Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired. There has been a frenzy to come up with something - anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious - that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple."

In a separate statement, the judge said he did not know Ms Swetnick and her "ridiculous" allegations "never happened".

The written testimony suggests Mr Kavanaugh will not try to portray himself as a saint.

He will say: "I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many."

But he will also say that what he has been accused of is "far more serious than juvenile misbehaviour".

How will Thursday play out?

The hearing is scheduled to get under way at 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT) and could last five hours.

There will be opening statements from the leading Republican and Democrat members.

Prof Ford will deliver her opening statement first.

The 21 senators on the committee will then have five minutes each to pose questions, but while the 10 Democrats are expected to ask questions themselves, it is believed a special counsel will act on behalf of the Republicans.

Prof Ford will then leave the room and Brett Kavanaugh will enter. Prof Ford had earlier asked not to be in the same room as the judge.

Mr Kavanaugh will deliver his statement and the same round of questioning will follow.

What is Donald Trump's stance?

He has portrayed the events in political terms, accusing the Democrats of trying to block the nomination.

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Media captionMight Donald Trump consider withdrawing Kavanaugh?

He repeated this on Wednesday, calling the accusations "a con job" by his political opponents.

Mr Trump has also repeatedly defended the judge's character, saying he is "one of the highest quality people" he has ever met.

But the president on Wednesday did say he was open to changing his mind once he had heard Prof Ford testify.

Why does this all matter and what happens next?

The Senate Judiciary Committee must vote on Mr Kavanaugh's confirmation before it is passed to the full Senate for a vote there.

The Democrats have called for the confirmation to be delayed to allow for the claims to be fully investigated.

A vote is scheduled for Friday but committee chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, has left open the possibility it might be delayed again.

All 10 Democratic members of the committee have called on President Trump to "immediately withdraw" Mr Kavanaugh's nomination.

Supreme Court judges are nominated by the president and hold the position for life.

Mr Kavanaugh's presence on the court could give it a more conservative character for decades.

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