Even before Dr Christine Blasey Ford sat before the Senate judiciary committee to testify against Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, a group of women knew what she was going through better than most.
They are the women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign to to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault and misconduct.
Over the past few weeks they have watched with a mix of agony and outrage as the man they accused propels another alleged predator toward one of the most senior jobs in US government.
"This is about character and someone who clearly has no respect for women leading our nation and we've just let that continue," says Rachel Crooks, who alleges Trump kissed her forcibly on the lips in 2005. "We should not be surprised he's nominated Brett Kavanaugh and stood by Roy Moore and other men who have been in similar situations.
For Melinda McGillivray, a Florida resident who was among the first accusers to speak out against Trump, Kavanaugh’s indignation and categorical denials on Thursday carried echoes of the president’s response to her.
“I truly feel like Donald Trump had a big influence on his testimony as to deny, deny, deny,” she said of Kavanaugh’s approach. “The mere fact that she wasn’t granted an FBI investigation is completely misogynistic and political.”
‘Lack of composure’
McGillivray, whose story about Trump is corroborated by her companion from the day, alleges that Trump grabbed her buttocks in a pavilion at Mar-a-Lago in 2003.
Crooks also found Kavanaugh’s performance on Thursday deeply troubling. “His combative nature and this lack of composure is really surprising. I can’t imagine anyone else going through a job interview and having these types of interactions and still being seen as fit for the job,” Crooks said.
She added: “Had this been Dr Ford and her reaction, she would have been called hysterical and too emotional and condemned in some way. For him, I’m sure it helped gain some sympathy points.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump used Kavanaugh's assault allegations as occasion to categorically deny those brought by his own accusers and briefly compare himself to George Washington.
“I’ve had many false accusations,” Trump said, adding that he thinks the first US president may have also had some accusations against him.
Trump’s accusers found a lot to empathise with in Blasey Ford’s experience. “I can understand how hard it was to summon up the courage to go on national television, bringing to light how she was sexually objectified by these young men,” said McGillivray.
But she said Blasey Ford’s allegation led other women to come forward, just as her own statements about Trump had helped more women come out publicly.
"I was one of the first of three women to come forward," McGillivray said. "Since then, troves of brave women have told their story, and whether their predator was a family member, neighbour, nominee for the supreme court or even the president of the United States, sex crimes against anyone should not be tolerated, period."
Crooks said she understood the dilemma Ford faced when Kavanaugh appeared on the judicial shortlist because “that’s where I was”.
"I knew Donald Trump was ascending in the Republican Party and thought people should know this about him," Crooks explained. "When you see someone who's being revered by half of society, it begins to seem like a moral imperative to tell the truth and let people know that they're entirely mistaken."
When Crooks learned other women had had similar experiences with Trump, she knew she had to do something. She had to back them up.
After Blasey Ford told her story to the Washington Post this summer, three other accusers – two named, and one anonymous – stepped forward.
Despite the multiple sexual allegations that have surfaced against Kavanaugh, Trump has continued to champion him. And Republicans made clear through questioning on Thursday that anyone voting him down will be seen as a defector.
“It’s sad that my story and the stories of the other women who come forward continue to fall on deaf ears, and [Trump] can just say these things and deny it and nobody seems to care,” said Crooks.
Crooks was one of a number of Trump accusers to call on Congress to investigate Trump’s sexual misconduct, saying in December of 2017 that they would welcome the opportunity to testify before the Senate about their experiences.
Crooks offered a grim prognosis but she wasn’t without hope. “Dr Ford being willing to come forward and testify shows that we’ve come a long way but the reaction and her having to move, and receive death threats shows the gap in our society and culture,” she said.
In other words, she is inspired by Blasey Ford – but disillusioned by what has happened to her.
Crooks was one of eight Trump accusers to join forces in condemning the president's treatment of Blasey Ford and another Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez.
Another accuser – Heather Braden, who was featured in BBC's Panorama "Is Trump a Sex Pest?" episode – said she found Blasey Ford's testimony "incredibly brave". It may not make much of an impression on Trump, she said, but it should send a clear signal to women everywhere.
“The bottom line is if she’s not given admirable, fair consideration in her allegations then we’re in a really screwed-up world,” Braden said.
“Women should be up in arms and out in the streets protesting. If this guy gets put in there without a proper investigation being finalised it’s just a perfect example of where women in the world really are.” – Guardian