WASHINGTON • The woman who accuses US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers testified to senators that the incident was "seared into my memory" even though she does not remember all the details.
Dr Christine Blasey Ford and Mr Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge picked by President Donald Trump in July for a lifetime job on the high court, were the only two witnesses scheduled for the Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.
Mr Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by two other women as well. He has denied all the allegations.
"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school," Dr Ford said, reading from her prepared testimony, her voice breaking with emotion.
Dr Ford was seated at a table in the packed hearing room flanked by her lawyers, facing a bank of senators. Cameras from news photographers clicked as she entered the room and took her seat, smiling nervously.
Dr Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said Mr Kavanaugh, who was drunk, attacked her and tried to remove her clothing at a gathering of teenagers in Maryland when he was 17 years old and she was 15.
"Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help," Dr Ford said, adding that Mr Kavanaugh and his friend were "drunkenly laughing during the attack".
Dr Ford said that when she tried to yell out, he put his hand over her mouth to stop her from yelling.
"I thought Brett was going to accidentally kill me," she said.
She said she was able to escape when Mr Kavanaugh and another boy she said was in the room fell off the bed.
Mr Kavanaugh, who is set to testify after Dr Ford, said in his prepared statement that he does not question that Dr Ford may have been sexually assaulted by someone, but strongly denied that he was the attacker.
"I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr Ford," Mr Kavanaugh said.
"I have never done that to her or anyone. I am innocent of this charge."
Dr Ford said that though they went to different high schools, she had been friendly with a classmate of Mr Kavanaugh's and attended a number of parties that the future judge also attended.
"We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me," Dr Ford said.
She said that her husband remembers that she gave Mr Kavanaugh's name when the couple discussed the attack in family therapy in 2012.
Mr Kavanaugh is trying to save a Supreme Court nomination that has become besieged by accusations of decades-old sexual misconduct.
At the opening of the hearing, the committee's Republican chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, lamented that the accusation surfaced after his panel held almost a week of confirmation hearings, while Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the GOP of a rush to judgment and complained about a lack of other witnesses.
Republicans are trying to get Mr Kavanaugh, 53, confirmed as early as next week.
The judiciary panel has scheduled a vote for today and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been preparing colleagues for a weekend session that would allow a final vote in a matter of days.
Mr Kavanaugh's second accuser, Ms Deborah Ramirez of Colorado, claims the judge exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were freshmen at Yale University.
And in the most lurid allegation yet, Ms Julie Swetnick of Washington said in a sworn statement released on Wednesday that Mr Kavanaugh took part in efforts during high school to get girls intoxicated so that a group of boys could have sex with them.