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Inside the room during Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony

For hours Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford recalled with composure her memory from a 1982 summer night, when she alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. At the time, they were students at elite prep schools in the Washington area.

Ford, who has a PhD and studied the effects of trauma on survivors, spoke of the alleged act as a person affected by it personally and as someone capable of analyzing the aftermath through the lens of a professional expert.

This, in photo and video, is how her testimony unfolded. This story features audio. For the full experience, turn on sound with the speaker button at the top right corner of the screen.

Cover image: Melina Mara/The Washington Post

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After committee chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s remarks, the ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, gave Ford’s introduction. She described the moment as an opportunity to teach about sexual assault, also mentioning Debbie Ramirez and Julie Swetnick — the two other women who have come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh.

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Before Ford even spoke, comparisons were drawn to Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. This time, both the optics and tone of the proceedings were strikingly different.

Twenty-seven years ago, the committee had only male senators, resulting in a line of men asking a woman tone-deaf questions about her alleged harassment.

Today, four women are on the committee — all Democrats. Career sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell spoke on behalf of each Republican committee member, acting as a female filter for their questions. Ford was sworn in, then delivered her opening statement.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool

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Ford said she attended a gathering at a home in Maryland the evening of her alleged assault. She drank one beer, she recalled, and Kavanaugh and another teenager, Mark Judge, were “visibly drunk.”

Ford remembered walking up a staircase toward a bathroom, she said, then being pushed from behind into a bedroom. Kavanaugh and Judge entered the bedroom and locked the door, she said. She was pushed onto a bed, then Kavanaugh climbed on top, she said. He groped her, struggled to take off her clothes because she was also wearing a one-piece bathing suit and tried “grinding his hips” into her, Ford said.

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Reuters

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Later in the hearing, much was made of the timing of Ford’s allegations, both publicly and privately. She said she disclosed her assault in therapy sessions and to her husband years ago. When Kavanaugh was being discussed as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court this summer, Ford said she reached out to her congresswoman and contacted The Washington Post.

It wasn't until the committee became aware of the allegations and reporters tried to find Ford at her home and classroom that the professor decided to publicly disclose her name and share her account in a story published by The Washington Post.

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After Ford’s statement, the questioning began. The order alternated between the Democratic and Republican senators. The Republicans, however, did not speak. Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor, handled all questioning on their behalf. Each of the 21 committee members was allotted five minutes.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of three senators also on the committee when Anita Hill testified, was among the first to address Ford. “Chairman, you and I were both here 27 years ago. At that time, the senate failed Anita Hill,” Leahy said. “I said I believed her. But I’m concerned we’re doing a lot less for these three women today.”

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Many of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee took their allotted five minutes as an opportunity not only to question Ford but also to politically grandstand the importance of believing sexual assault victims. Sen. Richard Blumenthal began to address Ford by commending her honesty and telling her she has earned America’s gratitude.

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post

People across America closely followed Ford’s testimony as it unfolded. According to reports, passengers on a flight from New York to Salt Lake City watched the hearing on seat-back televisions. The usually bustling New York Stock Exchange was quiet as traders did the same on their screens.

At the Hart Senate Office Building, a crowd of protesters gathered in solidarity with Ford. Chants of “We believe Anita Hill! We believe Christine!” reverterbrated throughout the atrium. Kavanaugh supporters also came together for the Supreme Court nominee, sporting buttons that read “Confirm Kavanaugh.”

Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Calla Kessler/The Washington Post

Calla Kessler/The Washington Post

Questioning resumed after a lunch break, where Democrats continued voicing their support for Ford. Like Blumenthal before them, Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) addressed the challenges Ford had to face and the effects that her testimony has on today’s social and political culture.

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool

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After each senator’s questions had been asked, Ford and her lawyers were excused. Grassley dismissed the room for a brief recess — after which they would hear testimony from Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

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