bloodwork: …accidentally going to kill me (artist interpretation)

I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. • India ink/graphite/menstrual blood on paper • Carly Swenson • 2020

The Kavangaugh hearing is what lead to this entire body of work. Christine Blasey Ford’s brave and vulnerable testimony flooded my social media with women sharing their own experiences and gratitude for Ford’s selfless willingness to speak up in a culture that will do everything to discredit her. This event was triggering for every woman I know. Her authenticity made Kavenaugh’s rampant wealthy male entitlement, toxic masculinity, and privilege strikingly apparent. No woman would be allowed to act how he did, his anger, his pouting, his crying, and his demands for pity.

His subsequent approval broke me.

His approval made a very clear statement. Our country’s leadership doesn’t care about women. Government leaders saw the truth and then figuratively said, ‘Nope. Fuck you, women.’  Because, honestly, I bet plenty of other men in places of power have done similar things. I wouldn’t be surprised if they felt a tiny sense of fear that, by holding Kavanaugh accountable, they too might have to be held accountable for their past actions.

However, regardless of any how or why behind Kavanaugh’s appointment, he was appointed.

I was devastated. Seriously? Out of all the potential nominees, they couldn’t find one that didn’t have a credible history of sexual assault? In fact, why the fuck is a president under investigation regarding his legitimacy, due to potential foreign influence even allowed to make a lifetime appointment?

I needed a new means of expression. My original idea was a portrait of Donald Trump painted with menstrual blood, antagonizing his misogynistic narcissism with a ‘pussy’ surrounded by his own derogatory quotes about women. When Kavanaugh was approved, I finally sat down with my own blood to express my own anger, disillusionment, and over the next couple years, injustices beyond me limited experience.

This is the condensed version of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford‘s opening statement in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. I edited her statement for space and content, while trying to keep the message and intent of her words intact. The following is the background text for this work:

“My name is Christine Blasey Ford. I am a Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University and a Research Psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine…I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children. 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. One evening, I attended a small gathering at a house… I truly wish I could provide detailed answers…[but] I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.

People were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. I went up a narrow set of stairs…to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom…Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not. During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice…THE last time, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. 

Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened. 

But over the years, I went through periods where I thought about Brett’s attack. I confided in some close friends that I had an experience with sexual assault. But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know…I also sent a message to The Washington Post’s confidential tip line. This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt I couldn’t NOT do it. 

I was conflicted about whether to speak out. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient…without having to make myself, my family, or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy we have faced since my name became public. At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized – and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats…My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world.

I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My responsibility is to tell the truth.”

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