How Much Has Changed Since Anita Hill Accused A SCOTUS Nominee?

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In 1991, Anita Hill accused a powerful Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment. Now, Brett Kavanaugh is accused of a similar offense.

 

The revolutionary #MeToo movement has brought about the downfall of many powerful sexual predators.

But even as we witness the demise of once-almighty men like disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, exactly how much has changed in the treatment of women who dare stand up against the patriarchy in our society?

Not much.

In 1991, long before the #MeToo campaign became the voice of women sexually abused and harassed in workplaces and otherwise, Anita Hill accused a powerful Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment — and she was one of the first women to do so.

Twenty-seven years later, another SCOTUS nominee is now faced with similar accusations, yet he looks well on his way to confirmation.

If Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accusation and his accuser’s request for anonymity tells one anything, it’s that it is still not easy for women to stand up against influential men, even as a lot has changed.

Hill echoed the same stance in a statement.

“The reluctance of someone to come forward demonstrates that even in the #MeToo era, it remains incredibly difficult to report harassment, abuse or assault by people in power,” Hill said in a statement.

 

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) recently issued a cryptic statement, claiming, “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.” 

Two anonymous officials close to the source said the alleged incident involves possible sexual misconduct between Kavanaugh and a young woman when he was in high school and the person who wrote the letter was someone from Stanford University, who requested confidentiality.

According to a New Yorker report, the letter alleged Kavanaugh and another one of his friends had been drinking when the SCOTUS nominee tried to force himself on her. She said Kavanaugh turned up the music in the room and covered her mouth with his hands to drown her protests. The woman claimed although she was able to escape, the incident caused her to seek psychological treatment.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” he said. His classmate also seems to have “no recollection” of the incident.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee should put in place a process that enables anyone with a complaint of this nature to be heard,” Hill said in her statement. “I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser, and no one should have to endure that again.”

Hill, when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of making unwanted advances towards her and making inappropriate comments about sex and pornography, became a pioneer in highlighting the treatment of women in workplaces at the hands of men. This was in 1991.

A lot has indeed changed since then, yet the way sexual accusations are handled has pretty much remained the same.

Take Feinstein’s response as an example.

The senator reportedly knew of the accusations since July, but only publicly acknowledged them in Augaust.

According to sources that talked to The New Yorker, the Democrat was concerned for the scrutiny the accuser might come under if the accusations were made public, however, another aspect of keeping these accusations private for such a long time, was that she felt it was better “focusing on legal, rather than personal, issues in their questioning of Kavanaugh.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed — which is very likely — without due investigation into the matter, the American justice system would have failed another alleged victim, just like Hill.

Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

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