Law & the Courts

Why Ford Must Provide Her Therapy Notes to the Senate

Christine Blasey Ford answers questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Melina Mara/Reuters )
They may reveal significant changes to the accuser’s story.

Last week, Senate Democrats turned upside down centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence when they put the onus on Brett Kavanaugh to disprove Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual-assault charge. Compounding the injustice of this nonsensical approach was the Senate Judiciary Committee’s willingness to allow Ford to testify that in 2012 and 2013 she had told her therapist about the now-36-year-old alleged incident, even though her attorneys had refused to provide the senators with a copy of her patient file.

Prior to the start of Thursday’s hearing, committee chairman Charles Grassley had requested the notes; her attorneys had demurred, claiming it would invade Ford’s privacy. But the therapy notes are significant to the Senate’s assessment of Ford’s account, because the details Ford apparently provided to her therapist conflict with the story she told the Judiciary Committee.

In her opening statement, Ford told the senators that in the summer of 1982, when she was 15 years old, an intoxicated Kavanaugh locked her in a bedroom, groped her, and attempted to remove her clothing, while his friend Mark Judge laughed and encouraged him to “go for it.” But the Washington Post’s Emma Brown reviewed portions of the therapy notes (provided by Ford), and wrote in her story breaking the news of Ford’s allegation that they describe “a ‘rape attempt’ in her late teens.”

Fifteen does not translate into “late teens,” even under a generous reading of that phrase. Further, in her initial text to the Washington Post, Ford stated that Kavanaugh had attacked her in the mid 1980s, which would put Ford in her late teens and Kavanaugh in college.

Additionally, the Washington Post reported that the therapist’s notes state that four boys were involved in the attack. Ford claims that was a mistake made by her therapist and that while “there were four boys at the party,” only two — Judge and Kavanaugh — were in the room. The Washington Post further stressed that the notes “do not mention Kavanaugh’s name,” but do state that Ford “was attacked by students ‘from an elitist boys’ school’ who went on to become ‘highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.’”

The disparity and vagueness raise significant questions that could best be answered by a thorough review of Ford’s therapy-session notes. And Ford’s testimony at Thursday’s hearing unwittingly highlighted this reality.

Early on during questioning by sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell concerning the accuracy of the letter Ford had sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ford incongruously raised the issue of Mark Judge’s employment at Safeway. Ford claimed that about six to eight weeks after the attack, she saw Judge once at the Potomac Village store, adding “it would be helpful with anyone’s resources if — to figure out when he worked there, if people are wanting more details from me about when the attack occurred. If we could find out when he worked there, then I could provide a more detailed timeline as to when the attack occurred.”

Ford would later raise the question of Judge’s job at Safeway an additional four times, and two Democratic senators would follow her lead and suggest that the FBI determine when Judge worked at the Safeway. Ford would also later add in the cross streets for the store location and a strange story about how she refused to enter the store through the same door as her mother — thus when she saw Judge, she was alone.

Why did Ford dwell on Judge’s job at Safeway? And how would knowing when Judge worked there help? It made no sense. Ford had already testified that the attack happened in the summer of 1982, and since she claimed she ran into him six to eight weeks later, at best this information could narrow down the time of the claimed assault only slightly.

What this talking point did achieve was to distract attention away from changes in Ford’s timeline. The media quickly picked up Judge’s book, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, in which the former Kavanaugh classmate wrote that for three weeks during the summer before his senior year in high school, he worked at the local supermarket. The press saw this passage as corroborating Ford’s testimony that the attack occurred in the summer of 1982. And with that, the therapist’s notes went to the wayside, and the conflict between Ford’s original claim that the attack occurred in the mid 1980s, in her late teens, was ignored — at least in the press.

Ford’s focus on Safeway, however, did not distract the seasoned specialist, and Sunday night, in a report to the Senate, Mitchell stressed, among other things, the disparate stories concerning the timing of the attack and Ford’s age.

Yet the investigation continues, and some Republican senators and moderate Democrats seem undecided. For those gentlemen and gentlewomen, I have one suggestion: Request a full copy of Ford’s therapy reports, and if her attorneys refuse to provide the information (confidentially of course), refuse to consider any of Ford’s testimony.

Margot Cleveland is a lawyer, CPA, stay-at-home mom, and former full-time faculty member and current adjunct professor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.

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