Critics have compared the GOP’s female sex crime prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to A Handmaiden’s Tale’s evil Aunt Lydia character after her tough grilling of alleged sexual assault victim Christine Blasey Ford.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are all white men, reportedly hired Mitchell because they feared the optics of an all-male panel questioning a woman who claimed she was sexually abused.
But critics have blasted their choice of Mitchell, a veteran prosecutor with decades of experience, for her probing of Ford’s claims she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Thursday.
The GOP’s female sex crime prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (left) is being compared to A Handmaiden’s Tale’s evil Aunt Lydia (right)
Some have even compared the prosecutor to A Handmaiden’s Tale’s cruel Aunt Lydia, played by Ann Dowd – who helps enslave American women and tortures those who do not comply.
‘Rachel Mitchell – the GOP’s very own Aunt Lydia,’ tweeted Claudia Lamb, after viewing the morning session of Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing.
Others were outraged that the prosecutor appeared to be putting an alleged sexual assault survivor on trial.
‘Seriously, did the Republicans think hiring Aunt Lydia to question Christine Ford would make them look more human? SHE IS NOT ON TRIAL #CancelKavanaugh,’ added Aimee Allison.
Others warned that having ‘an Aunt Lydia character’ grill the alleged victim, alternating with ‘intelligent, compassionate Democratic senators’ is a ‘disaster’ for the GOP.
The committee’s Democratic senators, four of whom are women, are questioning Kavanaugh and Ford themselves.
Others compared Mitchell to Dolores Umbridge – the cruel, belittling teacher in Harry Potter who made staff and students lives hell – and even the terrifying Ms Trunchbull in Matilda.
They include Dianne Feinstein of California – who Ford first approached with her allegations – Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California.
On Thursday, questioning was turned over to Mitchell, as Ford fought back tears as she recalled the horrific alleged assault.
Mitchell, a career prosecutor of sex crime cases, began her questioning with an apology. She noted Ford said she was terrified to be here. ‘I just wanted to let you know that I am very sorry,’ she said.
At one point, Feinstein asked how she could be so sure that Kavanaugh was her attacker.
‘The same way that I’m sure that I’m talking to you right now. Basic memory functions and also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that sort of as you know encodes – that neurotransmitter encodes memories into the hippocampus so the trauma related experience then is kind of locked there whereas other details kind of drift.’
Feinstein: ‘So what you are telling us is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?’
Christine Blasey Ford looked emotional during a tense Senate hearing on Thursday where she testified that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when she was 15
Mitchell had been brought in to question Ford on behalf of Republicans
‘Absolutely not,’ Ford replied.
When asked her degree of certainty it was Kavanaugh, Ford leaned down into the microphone and said: ‘100 percent.’
Ford’s morning began with her own testimony, where, over deep, shaky breathing, she said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge had been ‘extremely inebriated’ on the summer 1982 night.
Her voice quavered as she described her trauma.
Ford held back tears as she described the teenage party where she claims Kavanaugh attacked her as his friend Mark Judge watched.
‘I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to,’ she said. ‘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.’
‘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,’ she recalled.
‘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.’
Mitchell’s questioning focused on the facts surrounding Ford’s story. She tried to pin down how Ford came to the conclusion the party happened in 1982.
‘I can’t give the exact date and I wish I could,’ Ford said.
She added she used her memories to narrow down a year.
‘I’m just using memories when I got my drivers’ license,’ she said. ‘I did not drive to or home from that party and once I got my driving license I liked to drive myself.’
Mitchell, a Republican, has been a prosecutor since 1993, and leads the Special Victims Division in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix – where she would have worked with the county’s controversial sheriff, Joe Arapaio, until he was voted out of office last year.
She supervises attorneys who handle cases involving child molestation, sexual assault and computer crimes against children in Arizona’s most populous county.
Ford’s attorney’s have repeatedly objected to an outside counsel, insisting that the senators themselves must conduct the questioning.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee also blasted the move to hire an outside counsel, with a spokesperson for ranking member Dianne Feinstein telling DailyMail.com that it would ‘create a trial-like atmosphere’ in the hearing.
As a prosecutor in Maricopa County, Mitchell would have worked closely with Arpaio, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump last year for ignoring a court order to cease ’rounding up’ people suspected of immigration violations.
The county prosecutor’s office is separate from the sheriff’s office, however. In 2011, Mitchell was tasked to a unit that investigated why hundreds of sex crimes had gone unresolved or were not adequately investigated by the sheriff’s office.
The crimes dated from 2007 back to 2005, the year that Mitchell was first appointed as head of the Special Victims Division in a controversial shakeup.
Rachel Mitchell gestures to a map as she examines Ford during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
A 2016 audit also found some 4,000 untested rape kits in Maricopa County, a backlog that investigators are currently working through. Advocates blame a lack of funding for the backlog, and say that it is police, not prosecutors, who are typically responsibly for testing rape kits.
Mitchell, who has decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, ‘has been recognized in the legal community for her experience and objectivity,’ committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said in a statement Tuesday.
Prior to leading Maricopa County’s Special Victim’s Division, Mitchell spent 12 years running the bureau in the Division responsible for the prosecution of sex-related felonies, including child molestation, adult sexual assault, cold cases, child prostitution and computer-related sexual offenses.
In a 2012 interview with FrontLine, Mitchell explained that she had never planned to become a sex crimes prosecutor until, while working as a law clerk, she assisted in the prosecution of a youth choir director accused of abuse.
‘It struck me how innocent and vulnerable the victims of these cases really were. When I became an attorney with the office I prosecuted other kinds of cases, but I was drawn back to this area,’ Mitchell said.
Mitchell also spoke about the frequent reluctance of young sexual assault victims to come forward – a topic that will surely be raised on Thursday given Ford’s 36 years of silence about the assault that she alleges took place when she and Kavanaugh were both in high school.
Corridors of power: Rachel Mitchell was also spotted in the Capitol last Thursday
‘People think that children would tell right away and that they would tell everything that happened to them. In reality children often keep this secret for years, sometimes into their adulthood, sometimes forever,’ Mitchell said.
She also said that the ‘largest misconception’ about sexual offenses is ‘that ‘stranger danger’ is the rule rather than the fairly rare exception’, adding that ‘about 90-95 per cent’ of victims know the offender.
In 2015, Mitchell prosecuted a 13-year veteran of the Mesa Police Department who groped two women, one of whom had passed out.
Her tenure in Maricopa County has not been entirely without controversy, however.
In 2003, Mitchell declined to prosecute a husband accused of beating and neglecting his quadriplegic wife, the Phoenix New Times reported. The prosecutor said that the woman had changed her story and that there was not enough proof to bring the case to trial.
In 2011, Mitchell’s office drew criticism by proffering a plea deal for six months in prison to a Jehova’s Witness elder who had admitted to sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1990s.
The victim came forward some 30 years after the abuse occurred – but Mitchell said that it was difficult to be sure what age the victim had been when he was abused, which can dramatically affect sentencing guidelines.
However, Mitchell has also brought other successful prosecutions against sex offenders even though decades had passed since the the crimes.
In 2005, she won a conviction against former Catholic priest Paul LeBrun, who had been accused of molesting six boys between the ages of 11 and 13 in the 1980s and early 90s. LeBrun was sentenced to 111 years in prison.
Last year, the county attorney’s office introduced a sex crimes protocol – the first in its history.