STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Kavanaugh accuser draws Anita Hill comparisons

The drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court justice nomination is drawing comparisons to the Anita Hill controversy that gripped the country more than 25 years ago.

Posted: Sep 19, 2018 12:35 PM
Updated: Sep 19, 2018 12:52 PM

Looking back, Anita Hill was the original silence breaker. In her testimony to Congress 27 years ago, she noted "it would have been more comfortable to remain silent" than to come forward with her story about sexual harassment in the workplace involving then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who denied her allegations.

As she said then, "I felt that I had to tell the truth." But at the end of the day, she paid the price, and she lost.

Professor Hill endured hours of testimony by US senators who doubted her and a nation that discounted her. She was vilified by men and women, Republicans and Democrats. Officials at the university where she taught at the time tried to revoke her tenure. And when it was done, Clarence Thomas was still confirmed to the US Supreme Court.

It was a historical moment that showed women around the world the consequences of speaking out. Today, amidst the ascendancy of #MeToo movement, Christine Blasey Ford has come forward with allegations of attempted sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Whether it was Anita Hill almost 30 years ago, or Christine Blasey Ford today, we must recognize the cost women pay when they come forward.

Last year I shared my own story about a well-known man in a position of power who acted inappropriately with me during a job interview, which ultimately altered the direction of my career. I decided to speak out many years later because I saw that my silence meant he continued this behavior for many years with other women.

After I spoke out, many more women shared similar experiences about this man. Our shared experience led to forming Press Forward, an organization whose goal is to end to end harassment, elevate women and create civil and respectful work environments for women to do their best work in journalism.

Since then, I've spoken with dozens of women -- from interns and waitresses to C-suite executives -- who have told me their own stories of assault and harassment. Some have been able to move on, others remain deeply traumatized. Many have kept their experiences close and told few, if any, confidants about them.

The last two years have been a reckoning regarding the breadth and depth of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. But speaking out doesn't come without personal risk. Every time someone speaks out about being victimized, it comes at a cost.

Many brave women have told their stories publicly, but so many others are still hesitant to come forward. They fear professional retribution, or their economic circumstances require them to accept settlements at the cost of absolute silence.

Many women have chosen not to speak out because they risk retaliation and backlash, both professionally and personally. Others chose secrecy out of shame. And many fear others won't believe them. Reliving a traumatic event is hard and painful. Being disbelieved, disregarded, or retaliated against is hard and painful -- especially if the women have partners and young children.

Back then, one of the Senators questioning Hill asked her whether she ever considered making a complaint at the time, and if so, "how could you allow this kind of reprehensible conduct to go on right in the headquarters without doing something about it?" Partisans further challenged Professor Hill's credibility by arguing that a true victim would have spoken up sooner.

The same thing is happening today, and it's tragic. Today people are asking why it took Dr. Ford 30 years to come forward, as well as questioning the validity of her claims. Both Professor Hill and Dr. Ford took an extraordinary step to speak out, knowing the backlash they would have to face.

And yet, despite what Anita Hill went through almost three decades ago, Christine Blasey Ford opted not to stay silent, in spite of her initial desire to remain anonymous.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations in Professor Ford's story and a hearing is scheduled for Monday. The questions remain: Having come forward, will Ford have to endure the vitriol that Anita Hill did? Will she find, in this age of #MeToo, support for her telling her story? Or will she too be vilified? Will people believe her or will it cost her all credibility?

You may not believe Ford's account, but do not discredit her story because she did not come forward sooner -- and publicly. Assault is traumatic. It is traumatic when it happens; it is traumatic 30 years after it happens.

If and when Ford testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee, any dignified, empathic soul who believes her story will understand that she is exposing her very being to the world. She will be reliving a trauma (that she revealed to a therapist many years ago) to the country and the 24-hour news cycle.

Put yourself in her position -- its scrutiny, its vulnerability. Would you open up your most harbored and private pain to a panel of unfamiliar powerful faces and an international television audience? Would you subject yourself to the photographers, the endless calls from journalists, reporters showing up on your doorstep, and the percussive questioning that is certain to come?

Professor Ford's coming forward should only be seen as brave. It comes at the cost of being victimized all over again -- but this time with a nation watching her every word and move, and then peeling it apart over and over again.

I hope Professor Ford, if she appears next week, is welcomed -- not with the hostility, disbelief and castigation Professor Hill endured, but with a measured sense of understanding for an incredibly courageous woman.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 493832

Reported Deaths: 33418
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens760577290
Kings743397382
Bronx548924985
Nassau492032208
Suffolk485622019
Westchester400411470
New York356103192
Rockland17635683
Richmond170041094
Orange13413505
Erie12782713
Monroe7070300
Dutchess5421163
Onondaga5277207
Albany3549136
Broome333083
Oneida2670128
Ulster245995
Niagara2032101
Putnam178863
Sullivan172548
Chemung15443
Schenectady153950
Saratoga129517
Rensselaer107342
Steuben95157
Chautauqua87713
Columbia66938
Ontario63535
Oswego6094
Tompkins5930
Madison55717
Tioga54930
Cortland4960
Greene48918
Cattaraugus4556
Warren44833
Wayne4325
Orleans38554
Herkimer38410
Otsego3845
St. Lawrence3824
Genesee3795
Chenango3657
Fulton36124
Cayuga3522
Washington33014
Livingston2728
Allegany2691
Montgomery2614
Clinton2365
Jefferson1990
Essex1960
Wyoming1795
Delaware1687
Seneca1403
Schuyler1150
Yates1117
Schoharie1070
Lewis920
Franklin790
Hamilton160
Unassigned020
Utica
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 40°
Oneonta
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 38°
Herkimer
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 40°
Thendara
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 40°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
VOTE OCTOBER 22-30
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left