In Light of the Sexual Assault Allegation Against Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill Says Accusers Still Go Unheard

Illustration for article titled In Light of the Sexual Assault Allegation Against Brett Kavanaugh, Anita Hill Says Accusers Still Go Unheard
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Nearly three decades after she was famously subjected to an eight-hour grilling by an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill says it remains “incredibly difficult” for accusers to report abuse. In a statement on Friday, Hill invoked her own experience and called for an investigation into the accusation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


“[I]t remains incredibly difficult to report harassment, abuse, or assault by people in power,” Hill said. “Given the seriousness of these allegations, the government needs to find a fair and neutral way for complaints to be investigated. The Senate Judiciary Committee should put in place a process that enables anyone with a complaint of this nature to be heard. I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser, and no one should have to endure that again.”

Kavanaugh has been accused of attempting to rape a woman while they were in high school, teaming up with a classmate and covering her mouth before she was able to escape. He has denied the allegation, and Republicans released a letter signed by 65 women who claim to have known Kavanaugh in high school (he went to an all-boys’ school; the women came primarily from surrounding all-girls’ schools), stating that he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

While the alleged incident occurred in the early 1980s, the case parallels Hill’s own testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee claiming that she was sexually harassed by then-recently-nominated Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas while working as his assistant. In televised hearings, she was asked whether she was “a woman scorned” with a “martyr complex”; senators implied that she was an opportunist for waiting for a decade to come forward; they questioned her legal expertise; and she was pushed, particularly by then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden, to describe her “most humiliating” moments in graphic detail, including Thomas’s alleged references to pornography (the phrase “Long John Silver” was stated). Hill’s composure in the face of relentless vilification by men was credited with “revitalizing feminism,” the New York Times reported; during the following election cycle in 1992, more women were elected to Congress than in any previous election–which many have attributed in part to Hill’s hearing.

Hill was not taken seriously then, even by Democratic senators. In this case, Senator and Senior Democratic Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (who was, incidentally, elected to the Senate in 1992), has been has been implicated in suppressing the Kavanaugh allegation after she first received a letter from the accuser weeks ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. She finally announced on Thursday that she had sent it to the F.B.I., which has added the allegation to Kavanaugh’s background file. Anonymous sources told the New Yorker that Feinstein “was acting out of concern for the privacy of the accuser” and “also acted out of a sense that Democrats would be better off focussing on legal, rather than personal, issues in their questioning of Kavanaugh.”

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo



Well, let’s be blunt. The reason Anita Hill wasn’t “taken seriously” by the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee was because members of both parties have sexually harassed people. They couldn’t bring themselves to condemn Thomas for things they knew their colleagues (and in some cases, they themselves) had done.

The only reason Thomas was “investigated” at all was because women - in particular, seven Democratic congressional reps - demanded it.

With it looking likely that the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee would proceed with a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas without considering the sexual harassment charge leveled against him by Anita Hill, seven female Democratic members of the House march over to the Senate in a dramatic display of protest to “demand justice.”

For the most part, senators from both parties seem to be dismissive of Hill’s charges. But with feminist groups up in arms, the seven congresswomen — Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Pat Schroeder (Colo.), Barbara Kennelly(Conn.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), Jolene Unsoeld (Wash.), Patsy Mink (Haw.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.), as well as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) — head over to the Senate to demand that the confirmation vote be delayed until the charges can be investigated.

Later this day (October 8), the Senate agrees to the delay. But on Oct. 15, by a vote of 52-48, the Senate confirms Thomas as the court’s 106th justice.