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For Christine Blasey Ford, the fallout of the Kavanaugh hearing is ongoing

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. As a heads up to our listeners, the introduction I'm about to give describes a sexual assault. My guest is Christine Blasey Ford. She testified at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing that he sexually assaulted her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: 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.

GROSS: In Blasey Ford's testimony, she accused him of being drunk at a party when she was 15 and he was 17, and they each attended separate prep schools in the Washington Beltway. She said that he'd pushed her into a bedroom, climbed on top of her, pinned her down and tried to take off her clothes. She said she believed he was going to rape her. To keep her quiet, he put his hand over her mouth, making it so hard to breathe she was afraid he'd accidentally suffocate and kill her. When she said at the confirmation hearing that testifying terrified her, she had reason to be terrified - the death threats against her and her children forced her and her family to hide out in hotels and other places with 24-hour security. She still needs security.

Now she has a new memoir called "One Way Back," in which she writes about why she came forward and her perspective on the confirmation hearing. She also writes about who she is outside of her public image. Christine Blasey Ford is a professor of psychology in a collaborative program between Stanford University and Palo Alto University. She's also a clinical professor and consulting biostatistician at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Christine Blasey Ford, welcome to FRESH AIR. How did you write your book without retraumatizing yourself?

BLASEY FORD: I did retraumatize myself, having to go back through everything and relive it. And I tried to write a book a couple of years after the testimony and just really wasn't able to engage in the material. And when I looked at what I had written, I didn't think it was something that would be very useful anyway. So I abandoned that project for a while and then took it back up once I felt a lot better five years later.

GROSS: You didn't think of your experience with Brett Kavanaugh as sexual assault until you were in couples therapy with your husband, and told the therapist that story. What was the therapist's reaction?

BLASEY FORD: The therapists usually try not to be overly reactive, but I could tell that it made an impact on him, and he referred me to, like, a trauma-focused individual therapist.

GROSS: How did that change the story that you told yourself to start thinking of the incident as sexual assault, as opposed to just an attack? I don't mean merely an attack, but it just - it's a different kind of attack.

BLASEY FORD: Right. It didn't even hit home in the therapy as a sexual assault, even though that's how it was discussed. I kept using the word attack past the therapy session, and then a lawyer explained to me why it qualified as sexual assault.

GROSS: On the night of the alleged assault, you say you thought of the evening as a success when you got home. In what way was it a success?

BLASEY FORD: It was a success in that I got away. And I - you know, my escape was successful. And most importantly, I got past my parents without them knowing. So I made it into my room and thought, great, no one's going to know. This is - I'm OK. I'll get invited to next weekend's parties.

GROSS: What were you afraid of if they did find out? You were 15 at the time.

BLASEY FORD: I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go out anymore. And I'd be reprimanded for putting myself in that situation, I guess. Or, you know, it's hard to think back what I was truly afraid of, but probably mostly afraid just that I would be grounded. That was what would happen to us back in the day.

GROSS: On the night that you say Kavanaugh assaulted you, did you just think it was like, oh, well, boys will be boys? Were you...

BLASEY FORD: No, no.

GROSS: ...Like, dismissive about it?

BLASEY FORD: No, I knew that it was a definite boundary violation and a super-scary event, and that they were really drunk and took things way too far. I knew that it was not OK what they were doing.

GROSS: The Kavanaugh hearing was traumatic for you.

BLASEY FORD: Yes.

GROSS: And, of course, there was the assault itself. Do you think that the hearing was even more traumatizing than the assault?

BLASEY FORD: Definitely. The hearing and the aftermath of the hearing were more difficult for me than the original assault that I had tucked away and moved on from. Once I moved to California, I had really moved on from kind of most things East Coast, and it brought it all back up again. So it was very difficult.

GROSS: And also your credibility was seriously challenged. So what was your reaction to that? Were you expecting that?

BLASEY FORD: I expected a little bit of pushback in the hearing. And the hearing itself wasn't particularly difficult. I mean, it was the difficulty that I expected it to be. Some of the questions towards the end started to get sort of off topic and confusing, but, other than that, I actually left the room feeling like I did a good enough job and I would be OK, and I would go back to California, and we would figure out our hotel life and move forward. And that was that. I didn't know that it was going to continue to be problematic for me.

GROSS: When you say a hotel life, you and your family were basically hiding out in hotels because there were so many threats against you and your home.

BLASEY FORD: Yes, we had to leave when the Washington Post article was published on the 16 of September, and I didn't testify until more than a week later. So we had been in a hotel since the 16.

GROSS: And just to clarify, was that because you had to go to Washington or was that because you were hiding out? I don't want to get anything wrong.

BLASEY FORD: It was because of the threats. So...

GROSS: Oh, OK.

BLASEY FORD: ...And our house being surrounded. And initially it was just a fear of media, but it became more serious than that once people were trying to threaten me with the - I'm inferring that their intent was to intimidate me from testifying.

GROSS: Why didn't that succeed? How were you brave enough to go on in spite of those threats?

BLASEY FORD: Well, it was very late that I decided that I would go through with it, because I was going back and forth about not wanting to go to D.C., seeing if there were any other options with the committee, and trying - hoping that one of those options would pan out. And I had many people telling me to do it, and many people telling me not to do it. And it was very difficult to sort of balance that. And most of the people who were telling me not to do that were friends and family, and the people urging me were people I didn't know from around the world.

GROSS: Yeah, and from two different perspectives, I suppose. One was this would be good for all victims of sexual assault and terms of sexual assault. And if this is true, it would be good to keep Kavanaugh off of the Supreme Court. And the other perspective was just thinking of you. Like, this might really hurt you.

BLASEY FORD: Right. And the main thing is I just didn't want to be on TV. That was my biggest fear at the time - was I don't want to be - I was picturing the 1991 hearing and thinking, there's just no way I could...

GROSS: With Anita Hill.

BLASEY FORD: ...Be sitting in that - yes. And I was just thinking, there's no way I could sit in that big room with all of those senators questioning me. I just - like, especially with cameras on and thought there's no way I could do that.

GROSS: You didn't find out that the hearing was going to be televised live until you were basically in the hallway on the way to the room. Do I have that right?

BLASEY FORD: Right. I mean, apparently they told me. They said that they told me, but I guess I was minimizing that and not focusing on it when they were telling me. And as we were walking down the hall, I said, there's only going to be one camera - right? - because we had asked for only one camera. And they said, yes, there would only be one camera and that it would air on C-SPAN. And then I was a little bit concerned about that, but I told myself, well, no one watches C-SPAN. And all of my friends are working today, so they're not going to see any of this. And then there was mention that other networks have the right to pick up C-SPAN if they would like to. And by that time, you know, I'm just trying to walk and...

GROSS: Right.

BLASEY FORD: ...Continue forward and get - make it to the room and then walk through the room and get to the chair. So I didn't really have the luxury of panicking like I would have if they had told me in advance. So I always say it kind of served me well to not really know.

GROSS: How did you finally decide that you were going to testify?

BLASEY FORD: Well, we were living in the second hotel. We had been discovered in the first hotel and had to relocate. So I remember being in the second hotel and my lawyers encouraging me to just come to D.C., and then we could decide from there. And I just really didn't want to - I felt like I had just been in D.C. three weeks earlier doing the polygraph and visiting my family. And I just didn't really want to go back there. It's not a place that I enjoy other than to see family. So I was really wrangling with it. And it was Saturday and really pushing the deadline, and there was frustration around how long I was taking to decide. And I finally said, fine. I'll just go to D.C., and we'll decide once I get there.

GROSS: And how did you decide once you got there?

BLASEY FORD: Once I got there, there was a positive moment where all the different lawyers who I had met with over the summer and had called to try to get some assistance were all there. And it was just really nice to see them all, see their faces and meet them. And they thought that I could probably withstand what it would be to go through. At first, they had sort of doubted - there were some lawyers that doubted whether I was going to be able to withstand it. And once we started talking, I felt more confident that I could withstand what I was viewing as a meeting with the senators. I wasn't thinking of it as, I'm testifying at a hearing tomorrow. I was just thinking, I'm going to sit and meet with the senators in this kind of collaborative approach and share with them my experience and suggest that maybe they look into this person further.

GROSS: You weren't expecting all these attempts to discredit you.

BLASEY FORD: Well, I was told that there would be backlash. And part of why I wrote the book is because when people tell you that, it's so abstract. You know, when people say, you're - people are going to give you a hard time; you're going to have backlash, it was just very hard to imagine what that really is because I have a job where I get along with my colleagues. I have wonderful students, wonderful friends. I just couldn't really imagine what they meant. And if what that meant was people were going to speak poorly about me, that just didn't seem - that seemed very minor.

GROSS: Once you decided to go forward and your lawyers agreed that you should go forward, the lawyers wanted to prep you to ask you questions you'd likely be asked by the senators on the Judiciary Committee and help you prepare answers. You didn't want to do that. That's the kind of process most people go through before appearing before a committee like that, especially when it's so high-stakes. Why didn't you want to do it?

BLASEY FORD: Well, I was living in a hotel with my kids, and so I didn't really have the time to sit around and wonder what the questions might be. We didn't have any inkling of what the questions would be. So the idea of sitting around and having these questions just seemed like going through it twice and that that would just be twice as hard. The situation was already super-stressful, like, getting the kids to school. We were living in a separate town and just making sure that they were able to get to where they needed to go with the bodyguards. And I really didn't want them to have to miss school or sit out the fall semester of school even though I was sitting out my fall semester suddenly. So there was just so much going on. It didn't seem like that was a good use of time. And I'm probably very wrong about that. That probably was a really good idea that I just didn't do.

GROSS: What was the impact on you of telling the story so many times to the lawyers, to the press at the hearing, the lie detector test?

BLASEY FORD: The lie detector test was interesting because up until then, I had told a couple of lawyers over the phone just the general outline of it, and I had told my representative the full story. That was the first time I pretty much laid out the full story. And then the lie detector was interesting because it was the first time I was in the room with a man and no one else and telling the full story. That was a little bit stressful.

GROSS: What made that more stressful?

BLASEY FORD: Like, I didn't know him. And it wasn't like we got to know each other at all beforehand or any familiarity there. So - and he was also, you know, attaching devices to myself. And it was something I'd never done before. And, I mean, I wasn't, like, worried about my safety or anything like that. I just - it was just a little bit stressful that I'd just met my lawyers the day before and I'm now telling the story in a very long form. I definitely got the sense that - you know, and this is just an interpretation - that I was giving way too many details (laughter) than he had anticipated.

GROSS: Well, let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is Christine Blasey Ford. Her new memoir is called "One Way Back." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF AVISHAI COHEN SONG, "GBEDE TEMIN")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to the interview I recorded last Wednesday with Christine Blasey Ford. In her new memoir, "One Way Back," she writes about why she decided to testify at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17. She describes the hearing from her point of view and describes the death threats against her. She also writes about her life before she became a public figure, including her obsession with surfing.

When you were considering testifying, your lawyers said to you, you know, it can be therapeutic if you do this. So you went to your therapist and asked her, like, would it be therapeutic if I testified? And the therapist just laughed. What did the therapist tell you?

BLASEY FORD: Right. We both had a little bit of a light moment there at the idea that sharing your trauma with the government...

GROSS: (Laughter) Just hearing those words, yes.

BLASEY FORD: It's not - right? - like, the audience that typically people would want to seek out when they're sharing something like that.

GROSS: During the Judiciary Committee hearing, you were questioned on behalf of the Republicans by Rachel Mitchell. She's the prosecutor they hired to represent them. What did you make of her questions? Were there any questions that she asked that struck you as particularly problematic for you in one way or another?

BLASEY FORD: I thought she was very on point for the first two or three sections. It felt like it was a four-quarter football game to me, and I felt like for the first three quarters of it, the questions were appropriate. And she had said some kind things to me before and as she was leaving at the end of the testimony. But during the fourth quarter, I felt like the game got a little strange when she was showing maps of my neighborhood and asking me about flying.

GROSS: She was trying to show that you weren't being completely honest about your fear of flying. And you write about your fear of flying in the book, although you did fly when you really needed to get someplace, when you really wanted to get someplace. But you were initially reluctant to fly to Washington to meet with your lawyers, and you were reluctant to fly to Washington, you know, for the Judiciary Committee. So she was trying to point out, hey; you've flown in all these places, yet you say you have a fear of flying. The theory, I think, was by your legal team that she was trying to discredit you by saying, clearly, you're not being really forthcoming on this. You're not being completely honest about your fear of flying if you've flown to so many places. And your reaction was to think, why are we talking about this?

BLASEY FORD: Yeah, I didn't really get it. I assumed that the audience and the senators understood that some people don't love to fly, and some people even take medication for long flights or employ other coping strategies that are known to be efficacious for fear of flying. So I was thrown off because I assumed that she knew that. And so I didn't understand how to respond to her, thinking of her as a person that would know. I assumed a lot of knowledge that day from the senators and from her that I wouldn't need to recap, like, or go into.

GROSS: Are there things you would have liked to say at the hearing but you were afraid to say, or things you wanted to say but you weren't given a chance to?

BLASEY FORD: Well, I guess the main regret is that I didn't know that that was the only time I would ever speak to them. I thought, well, of course they're going to have follow-up questions and want to know more details and maybe look at the therapy records or talk to the friends or talk to people. I just didn't think that was, you know, the only opportunity to speak.

GROSS: Let's take a break here and then we'll continue the story. If you're just joining us, my guest is Christine Blasey Ford. Her new memoir is called "One Way Back." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRED HERSCH'S "A RIDDLE SONG")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to the interview I recorded last Wednesday with Christine Blasey Ford. In her new memoir "One Way Back," she writes about why she decided to testify at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and accuse him of sexually assaulting her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17. She describes the hearing from her point of view and the death threats against her. She also writes about her life before she became a public figure, including her obsession with surfing.

After the Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Jeff Flake agreed that there would be an FBI investigation, 'cause there was a lot of pressure to have an FBI investigation into your allegations against Brett Kavanaugh - and into Brett Kavanaugh. But one of the limitations was that the FBI investigation could only last a week. And you describe, you know, hiding out in a hotel with security. And every so often, you would open the door expecting, like, the FBI would be in the hallway ready to, like, knock on your door. And they never showed up. They never talked to you, and you were very disappointed. What were you hoping to tell them that you hadn't already told the Judiciary Committee?

BLASEY FORD: Well, I had my paperwork that I thought that I might have an opportunity to share, even before that time. So I was organized and had my timeline. I had my list of people that they could speak with so that they could do a thorough investigation. And I was ready for that. And it was supposed to last a week. And after three days or four days, it was rumored that it was over. And I just really couldn't believe that it was over.

GROSS: You said you got your papers together. In those papers were records of your therapy session when you were in couples therapy, and you mentioned to the therapist about Brett Kavanaugh attacking you. And the therapist said, that's sexual assault and you need an individual therapist. So that was in the records from years earlier, and you...

BLASEY FORD: There's an allusion to that in that record. And then also in the record with the individual therapist, there's also reference to it in that record.

GROSS: But your lawyers didn't really want you to submit those papers as evidence. Why not?

BLASEY FORD: At that point, they did not, because at that point, they felt like the train was arriving at the station - that there was - this was only going to hurt me if I did that. And I was - I just - I could not believe that it was over. I couldn't believe that they didn't speak with any of my corroborators at all. I mean, they didn't go to - we sent them a list of people they could speak with about - from various time points in my life. And they were - I guess the investigation is defined, and the president at the time defined it in a certain way - that it would be very limited and only include a set of his friends and one person from my high school. So they didn't include any of the information that I was prepared to share.

And - yes, I was really upset. There were a lot of things happening that day - rumors that there was going to be a rally making fun of me, which came to fruition. And I really wanted to release those records that day. Like, I wanted to release them so badly. I wanted to release all of my things, just give them all over. I thought that was the right thing to do. I felt like it was wrong to withhold the information. And so we were in a very tense exchange. And I was in my hotel, and I was just like, I want to do this. And they were all very against me doing that.

GROSS: I think part of their concern was not everybody understands therapy and that you would be considered mentally ill - mentally unstable by a lot of people after they heard that you'd been in therapy.

BLASEY FORD: Yes. I think that was one of the concerns, is that they'll - it'll just be something else for them to say about me. And they said, at this point, if there's not a videotape of him, they're not going to do anything. And even if there was a videotape of him, they're going to say it's a different person. So it doesn't matter what I have. It doesn't matter what my friends have. It doesn't - it just didn't matter.

GROSS: Yeah. Because the Republicans were basically saying that you could have easily confused somebody else with Brett Kavanaugh. There's no evidence that the person who assaulted you - if, in fact, you were assaulted - was really Brett Kavanaugh and not somebody you confused with him. So how are you going to fight against that with therapy records? Did you expect to be put on trial yourself?

BLASEY FORD: Not to the extent that I was. I didn't expect, like, the smear - hit media, although now I see that happening to other people, and I just recognize it so easily. And I...

GROSS: So many other people like you...

BLASEY FORD: ...Do my best to reach out to those people to say, hey; I know that's terrible and (inaudible). And it's a terrible feeling to have these orchestrated media hits on you...

GROSS: There could be a very...

BLASEY FORD: ...But once...

GROSS: ...Large support group of people...

BLASEY FORD: Yeah. Right?

GROSS: ...Who've gone through similar things that you did of getting smeared and getting death threats...

BLASEY FORD: Yeah.

GROSS: ...And having to hide out.

BLASEY FORD: Right. It now seems like it's commonplace for anyone that speaks to the government. And that's too bad, because I really want to encourage people to come forward, or to be just involved in civic engagement at any - on any topic, at any level. And it's just really too bad - this culture.

GROSS: I'm sure one of the things disturbing for you is that - like, your father didn't smear you or anything, but he didn't show up. Your parents didn't show up at the confirmation hearings. And I forget which publication said that your father had been in contact with Brett Kavanaugh's father, because they belong to the same country club. And you asked your father straight out, like, did you write a letter to Brett Kavanaugh's father? And your father said, no. And then you finally got him to admit that - well, he didn't write a letter. He wrote an email.

BLASEY FORD: Right.

GROSS: And I'll quote the email because you quote it in the book. So your father wrote to Brett Kavanaugh's father, (reading) I'm glad Brett got confirmed, so we can all put this behind us now. How do you explain that to yourself, knowing that you still can't put this behind you? You're still getting death threats. You still need security, and it's been years. So that was so incredibly incorrect.

BLASEY FORD: Right. That was - it was really disappointing. And I love my father very much. And we have very different views on things. And when we did talk about that - and that was about a year after I testified when I learned of that email. And he said, well, what he really meant by that was just he was really glad that it was over. And I said, OK, well, a lot of people told me that. A lot of people said they were glad that it was over, and that maybe I could go home and I would be safer. And he's like, yeah, I wish that that's what he had said, but that's not what he said. And it was really difficult. And just to go back when you said that - they didn't come to the hearing. They came to the hotel after the hearing to meet me. I didn't invite them to the hearing.

GROSS: Why not?

BLASEY FORD: I didn't know that it was a thing (laughter). It seems to be, like, a thing that you're supposed to have, like, a specific audience on television behind you. I was very overwhelmed with just myself being at the hearing. And when I heard that my friends could come, I told my friends, like, I don't really want you guys in there. Like, it's a really sad story and it's really, like, personal, and I don't really want you all to be in there. And so they - but my friends did come, and some came with me from California. And so I just had a hodgepodge of friends from across different contexts of my life there. But it wasn't a planned audience like I think maybe it was supposed to be or something, where you're supposed to have certain people sitting behind you.

GROSS: If your parents were there, would that have made you more self-conscious? Or were you just trying to protect them from seeing their daughter having to go through this?

BLASEY FORD: Well, so we actually - and when we got back to California and heard that people were critiquing the fact that I didn't have my parents sitting behind me, we had a little bit of a laugh about that. And our laughs were rare during that period of time. And one of my friends said, yeah, I mean, I had a hard time dealing with my parents being at my wedding. Like, you know, what are you going to...

GROSS: (Laughter).

BLASEY FORD: You're supposed to, like, worry, are they are they OK? Like, you know, where are they going to sit? Are they comfortable? So it really hadn't occurred to me. My mom isn't in the best of health and they were in Rehoboth Beach. I just didn't see the need for them to be there. I would have preferred a private meeting, and that's what I had asked for. So I would have preferred no audience whatsoever there but that's not how it happened. And in a way, that was, ironically, a good thing. Because if it had - if I had gotten my way and had a private meeting, there would have been no impact on other survivors, the people who benefited...

GROSS: Right.

BLASEY FORD: ...From my testimony. So to me, no matter what happened to me, which is a bunch of complicated, difficult things, doesn't really matter that much if it helped so many people.

GROSS: Well, let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is Christine Blasey Ford. Her new memoir is called "One Way Back." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "WEARY")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to the interview I recorded last Wednesday with Christine Blasey Ford. In her new memoir, "One Way Back," she writes about why she decided to testify at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and accuse him of sexually assaulting her. She describes the hearing from her point of view and the death threats against her, and she also writes about her life before she became a public figure.

One of the hardest parts of trying to recover from the hearing and from all the death threats is that you didn't feel like you could be yourself. And there are a lot of things you couldn't do now for security reasons. And people wanted you to be your former self, but you didn't feel like that person anymore.

BLASEY FORD: Right, I was definitely grieving - not over the outcome. The outcome is something I had to detach from before I even testified, that the outcome is going to be whatever it is. But the process was so difficult, especially with the DARVO and the smear attacks. I had a really difficult time with the social media comments and the memes and all of that. It was very hard to get through. So I was grieving just about the change in our family's life and the fact that I had to take a middle schooler and a high schooler and say we're leaving for one night and, you know, three months later, we're still not able to go back.

So it was just a difficult time, very sad. And I just then had to brace for a series of books that would come out that weren't exactly accurate - and then some of them were smear books - and such difficult times and very hard to get through. And people definitely wanted me to get over it much more quickly, in the best of ways. Like, people just wanted me to be back to my old self and let's go do the fun things again. And I just wasn't ready. It took me - I'm, like, a slow groover. It takes me a really long time to get over things.

GROSS: Where are you now in that grieving process?

BLASEY FORD: I'm much better. But if I had written this book a couple of years ago, it wouldn't have been as - it would have been a lot different than what it sounds like now.

GROSS: I've been trying to stay away from the specifics of the alleged assault because I don't want to trigger you. But still, like, you're talking about that whole experience. And you'll be talking about it with a lot of other people, too, because your book was just published and people will be reading the book. What is it like for you to return to that conversation and to have to talk about it again?

BLASEY FORD: Yeah, there were days writing the book where I would get completely triggered and have a fight or flight response and not sleep for - very well for a few days. And then I would be exhausted and I'd calm down and I'd be able to get back to work. And there were parts of the book that were really fun to write. I enjoyed writing down all the bad things I actually ever did, so there were definitely parts of it that were cathartic and enjoyable, and reflecting on all the people that helped and all of the letter writers who had responded to me from all over the world.

GROSS: So you did not succeed in derailing Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, but you did succeed in raising awareness of a sexual assault. A gazillion women got in touch with you. Many women just felt so affirmed by hearing you talk and by hearing you have the courage to talk. Has it been helpful for you to get that kind of response from women who gave you the support and who praised you for coming forward?

BLASEY FORD: Absolutely. And it was women and men. So women and men from all 50 states and 42 countries, and just the sheer volume of the outpouring was incredible. I didn't get all of those letters for a while. About six or seven months after I testified is when I was able to go pick them up in a mail warehouse and load them up. And then we were able to assemble a team to help read them, including some of my students who are trauma experts and work at our VA hospitals and specialize in trauma. And we were able to hear them, and I would always say, I just want to write back to everyone, but it's not a feasible task. I wrote back to everyone over the age of 90 and that took me a really long time.

GROSS: (Laughter).

BLASEY FORD: It's just not a feasible task. I was sort of going in reverse age order for a while, and I'm trying to figure out a way to honor them. And this book is one of those ways. The book is dedicated to them, because they are the reason that I was able to get through this, and they are the reason that other survivors will be able to get through this, is that they are a community and their generous words were just incredible. One out of every four to five letters was a sexual assault story, sometimes eight to 10 pages long. And we wanted to make sure to honor those letters and read them with purpose and read them together as a team. And just we've made our way through 30,000 letters, and there are at least that many still remaining to be read.

GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us. I know some of this must be hard for you, but I really appreciate you doing it, and I appreciate you writing the book.

BLASEY FORD: I appreciate the opportunity, and even if it's hard, I do need to keep talking about it. So thanks for providing this venue.

GROSS: Christine Blasey Ford's new memoir is titled "One Way Back." This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAMSON FRANCOIS' "JEUX D'EAU, M. 30") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.
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