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 11:37 AM
Updated: Sep 19, 2018 11:52 AM

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 145636

Reported Deaths: 3745
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto963299
Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
Rankin528598
Lee484295
Madison4633105
Forrest368186
Jones345287
Lauderdale3350143
Lafayette315049
Washington3097107
Lamar281849
Oktibbeha239261
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Lowndes228863
Neshoba2164115
Panola211749
Marshall208350
Leflore200890
Pontotoc194728
Monroe190277
Sunflower189755
Lincoln186165
Warren172257
Tate164251
Union160925
Pike160458
Copiah158940
Yazoo151239
Scott150229
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Coahoma147443
Pearl River144467
Simpson144253
Alcorn143925
Prentiss140429
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Adams136548
Leake131843
Holmes124961
George122224
Tippah121530
Covington117636
Winston116624
Wayne115823
Hancock114139
Marion111046
Attala107833
Tishomingo106142
Newton102729
Chickasaw102432
Tallahatchie95527
Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
Amite51214
Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
Calhoun6049113
Etowah600564
Marshall596153
Houston510838
DeKalb469635
Cullman421136
Limestone408844
St. Clair403955
Elmore398961
Lauderdale387253
Walker356199
Talladega339044
Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
Autauga266139
Franklin246233
Coffee236615
Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
Choctaw41813
Greene41317
Coosa3144
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