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Calmes: Christine Blasey Ford's memoir isn't about Brett Kavanaugh but it still suggests a #MeToo reckoning

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (Photo by Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)
Christine Blasey Ford isn't out for vengeance in her memoir "One Way Back." (Variety / Penske Media / Getty Images)

Retribution seems to be all the rage these days on the right, given Donald Trump’s 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 isn’t 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 wasn’t ready to tell this story. … You can’t write a book based on vendettas.”

Indeed, she doesn’t 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 Kavanaugh’s 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 he’s helped deliver as part of the Trump-inflated conservative supermajority.

No, this isn’t 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. I’ll 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.”

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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.”

It’s clear her own experiences inevitably helps inform how she raises her boys. “I can’t 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 adds: “I can’t imagine what that’s 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. I’d wondered back then, why didn’t 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.

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That brings me to Kavanaugh’s 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 they’d 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 they’d 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 Kavanaugh’s purported respect for women.

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By now both Kavanaugh 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 was “the danger” parents dread.

Again, to quote Ford, “I can’t imagine what that’s like.” But I suspect it’s a punishment of sorts. Retribution even.

@jackiekcalmes

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.