Students And Neighbors Of Christine Blasey Ford Discuss The Woman They Know

Sep 20, 2018
Originally published on September 24, 2018 6:28 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

OK. As we heard, Christine Blasey Ford has largely stayed out of sight since being identified earlier this week. And friends and former students who knew her before she became the center of this political storm describe a private person who shied away from the spotlight. NPR's Meg Anderson reports.

MEG ANDERSON, BYLINE: Ted Jenkins and his wife, who goes by Mike, have lived next to Christine Blasey Ford and her family in their Palo Alto neighborhood for more than a decade.

MIKE JENKINS: We've been able to watch their family grow because when they moved, their youngest boy was very young.

ANDERSON: It's a quiet street, but Ted Jenkins says they always know when their neighbors come home.

TED JENKINS: Because all of a sudden, we hear basketballs out in the street, the two boys out in the street playing basketball from one side of the street to the other.

M. JENKINS: In a safe situation.

ANDERSON: But they haven't seen Ford or her family since she accused Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of groping her and trying to take her clothes off at a party when they were both in high school in the early 1980s. Ford says at that party, she went upstairs to use the bathroom when she was pushed into a bedroom. Here's her lawyer, Lisa Banks, describing what she says happened next on Morning Edition earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LISA BANKS: And Brett Kavanaugh got on top of her on the bed, pushed her down on the bed on her back, began groping at her, trying to take off her clothes.

ANDERSON: Ford says she tried to scream, but Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth. She says another student, Mark Judge, was in the room egging him on. Both men deny that the incident happened. Ford says she didn't tell anyone, including her husband, until they met with a therapist in 2012. She married Russell Ford in 2002, and they have two sons. She's 51 years old now and a professor at Palo Alto University and the Stanford University Psy.D. Consortium. That's a joint clinical psychology program.

NPR reached out to dozens of Ford's neighbors, colleagues, former students and friends. Many did not respond or said they didn't want to get involved. The ones who did paint a picture of a busy and hardworking but quiet professor and a dedicated mom. Samantha Buchman, one of her former doctoral students, describes Ford as warm and down-to-earth.

SAMANTHA BUCHMAN: She loved to use surfing metaphors when she was teaching. She's a surfer. She would always tell us, you know, as she was teaching, like, I want to make sure everybody's with me, everybody's understanding. And so if you're understanding, you know, do the - like, the international surfer's sign for all's good.

ANDERSON: Buchman says Ford stressed to her students the importance of reading empirical research with a critical eye.

BUCHMAN: Something she always taught us that I will always remember is the importance to seeing all sides of the data.

ANDERSON: She says Ford talked often about what she said was a problem in the field of clinical psychology, that often only studies with positive outcomes are published.

BUCHMAN: So if people do a treatment study to see if a treatment works and it doesn't end up working, that study doesn't get published. And she thought that that's a real shame. And she felt like we need to see the full picture; we need to see all the data.

ANDERSON: David Spiegel, a psychiatry professor and colleague of Ford's at Stanford for the last 14 years, says Ford calls things the way she sees them.

DAVID SPIEGEL: She's someone who tells you things sometimes you're not happy to hear, but it's the way the story is. And she's always been a very quiet, direct, honest person.

ANDERSON: Ford's neighbors, Ted and Mike Jenkins, say they haven't seen her or her family in several days. But they are watching the media circus outside.

T. JENKINS: It's dismaying in the sense that it's Chris that they're talking about, it's Chris that's doing this.

ANDERSON: They're left wondering when or if things will return to normal. Meg Anderson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.