WASHINGTON (AFP) - A college professor went public for the first time Sunday (Sept 16) to accuse President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, prompting calls by opposition Democrats to postpone the nomination vote.
Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, initially detailed the allegations about Brett Kavanaugh in confidential letters to her local congresswoman and later to California Senator Diane Feinstein, a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Now Ford has told The Washington Post she had decided to waive her anonymity because she felt her "civic responsibility" was "outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation" after the basic outlines of the story emerged in media last week.
Kavanaugh had previously released a statement on Friday (Sept 14) denying the incident, saying: "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."
Ford, who is a registered Democrat herself, told the Post in an interview that one summer in the early 1980s Kavanaugh and a friend, both of whom were "stumbling drunk," cornered her in a bedroom at a teenagers' party in a house in Montgomery County, a suburb of Washington.
Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed while his friend watched, she said, then groped her while attempting to remove her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing on top of it.
When she attempted to scream for help, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.
"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," said Ford, who is now 51 years old and lives in northern California. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."
She said she was finally able to escape when another of Kavanaugh's classmates at his prestigious private school, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, whereupon all three were sent tumbling and she was able to escape the room, first locking herself in a bathroom briefly before fleeing the house.
She added she did not tell anyone about the attack until 2012 when she brought it up during couples counseling therapy with her husband.
The therapist's notes from the time, seen by the Post, do not mention Kavanaugh by name but otherwise echo the claim, describing an attack by students "from an elitist boys' school" who went on to become "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."
Notes from a subsequent therapy session a year later describe the attack as a "rape attempt".
'An insult to women'
Reacting to the story, on Sunday, Senator Feinstein said: "From the outset, I have believed these allegations were extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh's character."
"I support Mrs Ford's decision to share her story, and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation," added Feinstein, who had previously forwarded the allegations to federal authorities.
"This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee."
Chuck Schumer, who is the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, also called on the committee's Republican chairman to postpone the vote until "these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated."
The Judiciary Committee is currently due to vote on the nomination on Sept 20. A vote of the full Senate would follow if the committee approves his nomination.
"For too long, when woman have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case," Schumer said in a statement.
"To railroad a vote now would be an insult to the women of America and the integrity of the Supreme Court."
Speaking before Ford's interview with was published, a Republican member of the committee said he expected Kavanaugh would be comfortably approved in any vote and even predicted he would get some support from Democrats.
"They've had this stuff for three months. If they were serious about it, they should've told us about it," Louisiana Senator John Kennedy told Fox News, calling the whole process "an intergalactic freakshow".