By: Kuhu Badgi — Political Editor
This fall, Anita Hill released her third nonfiction book “Believing”, which recounts her own experiences with sexual harassment, while primarily focusing on potential legislative and administrative approaches to addressing gender violence in professional and personal settings.
In 1991, Hill testified in front of the then all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee in regards to the sexual harassment she faced because of her former employer and Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. The Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas in a 52-48 vote, and Hill faced condemnation and disapproval for her testimony. However, Anita Hill set out to redefine the American approach to sexual harassment and assault.
Hill initially hoped to return to her life as a professor and out of the public spotlight. But she was flooded with the stories of other victims who identified with her story. “I had no intention of becoming a crusader. I wanted to go back to my job teaching. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen,” said Hill.
In a recent Good Morning America interview, Hill shared how her approach in addressing sexual harassment has changed over time. “I started out with sexual harassment and I thought that was sort of the issue that I would deal with. But I started hearing from people who were telling me about intimate partner violence and there were people who wrote mean and spoke about their experience with sexual assault and rape,” Hill said.
This realization led her to a change in focus, as well as a new usage of the word “gender-violence”. “What I started to understand was that there was this connection. And you couldn’t really separate them. So in order to really capture this huge problem that we have, I chose to use the term gender violence,” Hill added.
Hill was recently joined by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on the “Because of Anita” Podcast, where the two discussed their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. Ford testified against Brett Kavanaugh for sexual assault in his 2018 confirmation hearings, which reexamined the confirmation process and the evaluation of the integrity of nominees.
Ford says how she was influenced by Hill when she testified. “When I reflect back on that, I realize that I would never have thought in my mind that I needed to say something if it wasn’t for Anita. If Anita had never testified and we had never seen her do that, it would not have occurred to me that that was even something that we were supposed to do. Or something that we could do,” Ford said.
“I hear from people all the time who say ‘I could never do what you did and I say I could never do it either. But when it does happen to you, it is harder to sit with that information than to not share it,” she added.
On the podcast, Hill urged women to come forward against their abusers but acknowledged the circumstantial differences that exist and the consequences of coming forward. “What are your resources? Do you know how you need to frame your story to be heard? I have been saying this for the last thirty years now. I am still not at a point where I can tell every person who has been violated that they should step forward into a system. I can’t just tell people to come forward, knowing what I know about the potential consequences,” Hill said.
Hill adds that more things would change if we provide systems and processes so that people can come forward, they can be heard. “I know I am privileged to have weathered this. This is always going to be part of your life, the assault and then the experience of the hearing. But I see in you the ability to make sense out of it. And not only make sense but the ability to make some benefit out of it. Some benefit that is going to help other people,” said Hill.