Almost 3 decades ago, Clarence Thomas was sworn in as the 106th Supreme Court justice. To confirm him, the Senate Judiciary Committee 1st heard testimonies about his “remarkable” character for 103 days.
“Remarkable,” until a leaked confidential FBI report revealed that a former colleague, professor and lawyer Anita Hill, had accused him of making unwelcome sexual comments bordering on sexual harassment.
During the hearing, Hill was grilled by the all-male, all-white Senate committee with questions like, “What was the most embarrassing of all the instances that you have alleged?”
The panel also made comments like, “You testified this morning, in response to Senator Biden, that the most embarrassing question involved–this is not too bad– women’s large breasts. That is a word we use all the time. That was the most embarrassing aspect of what Judge Thomas had said to you.”
No woman alleging sexual misconduct should ever be treated in the way that Hill was during her questioning. Her feelings were valid. Her memory was valid. Her motives were valid.
Thomas’s nomination was approved by the Senate, 52-48.
Today, the Judiciary Committee faces a similar decision. President Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has been accused of sexual misconduct against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: attempting to remove her clothes and covering her mouth as she screamed for help.
While Kavanaugh has vehemently denied these allegations, I believe now is the time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to attempt to right the injustice and mishandling of Hill’s allegations in 1991.
To be clear, I am not asserting that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty. That conclusion can not be made until there is an adequate investigation of the matter. I am asserting, however, that in order for both Dr. Ford– and potentially Judge Kavanaugh– to achieve justice, the committee must do their part in investigating the allegations thoroughly.
It will be difficult: Dr. Ford, who had wished to remain anonymous, has already been dragged through the media mud and has received death threats in the same manner as Hill.
The opposition has torn these woman down, claiming that their hesitation to come forward in the past equates to them lying now in an attempt to tear down powerful men. What they don’t mention, however, is how it is perfectly reasonable for these women to come forward in the last hour to bring to light the true character of men on the brink of even more power.
Some women have become so accustomed to certain behavior that they feel it is not worth reporting. Others fear that speaking out against harassment will only create exacerbate their situation.
According to RAINN.org, of the sexual violence cases not reported to the police between 2005-2010, 20% of women feared retaliation, 13% believed the police would do nothing to help, and 8% believed their assault was not important enough to report.
Therefore, to question why Hill never reported her boss’s advances until his nomination to the Supreme Court is bogus; to question why Dr. Ford kept her assault under wraps until her assailant was nominated to the Supreme Court is invalid.
These respected, intelligent women are not seeking attention for their own sake. They have suffered, healed, and moved on from their harassment, only to be dragged through the public eye once they decided that the men in question were not fit to serve in such a position of power.
The Senate committee must take accusations seriously, no matter how long ago the incident may have occurred. In the words of Anita Hill, “To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond.”