By Aisha Powell
“I am here today, not because I want to be, I am terrified.”
The first sentence Christine Blasey Ford spoke on Sep.27 in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Dr. Blasey, a professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University, voice was a bit shaky as she continues her testimony. She has accused Hon. Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, of sexual assault, which happened more than 35 years ago.
“I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school,” she says as the world watches her a the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing live, with one video garnering over 100,000 views.
Rewind to Oct 21, 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard something similar: “Mr. Chairman, Senator Thurmond, members of the committee, my name is Anita F. Hill, and I am a Professor of Law at the University of Oklahoma,” said Anita Hill, who is also an attorney. She had accused the then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment.
“I thought he [Clarence Thomas] respected my work and that he trusted my judgment. After approximately three months of working there, he asked me to go out socially with him,” she said. “What happened next and telling the world about it are the two most difficult things — experiences of my life.”
Hill continues to explain the sexual harassment she endured by Clarence Thomas, eight years prior. Two days after the trial, Thomas was sworn in as the Supreme Court Justice.
In light of the #MeToo movement, which was originally started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a civil-rights activist from the Bronx and later popularized by actress Alyssa Milano in 2017, thousands of women have come forward with stories about sexual assault or harassment.
High profile celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Ben Affleck, Russell Simmons, Mario Batali, Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey have all been accused of sexually assaulting women at some point in their life.
Dr. Ford and Hill, however, are the only two women to speak about sexual misconduct of Supreme Court Nominees to the Senate Judicial Committee.
Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas are also very similar. Both men have pleaded their innocence and denied any accusations of misconduct against them.
“I have not said or done the things Anita Hill has alleged,” Thomas stated to the Committee, which looks a lot like it does now.
The first woman on the committee was Diane Feinstein (D.) in 2016, now only four seats are occupied by women and they are all Democrats. Just in Jan. 2018, the first black members were appointed; Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, both who are democrats.
The Judiciary Committee hired Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor, to question Ford. No women questioned Hill.
“You testified this morning that the most embarrassing question involved — this is not too bad — women’s large breasts,” said Sen Arlen Specter during his questioning to Hill. “That is a word we use all the time. That was the most embarrassing aspect of what Judge Thomas had said to you?”
“Now, in trying to determine whether you are telling falsehoods or not, I have got to determine what your motivation might be,” said Sen. Howell Heflin to Hill. “Are you a scorned woman?”
The committee’s questioning of Hill, which lasted 8-hours, was uncomfortable to watch, to say the least. The pointed questions undeniably upheld the “men are men” ideology – committee members asked the extremely poised Hill to explicitly go into detail about all the misconduct she had encountered while working with Thomas. Then they normalized the lewd comments and were dismissive of her claims.
Joe Biden, who was then Senate Judiciary Chair during Hill’s hearing, apologized to her on NBC’s Today on Sept 21, 2018.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t have stopped the kind of attacks that came to you,” he said. Three of the other senators, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy were also on the committee during Hill’s hearing.
In her 1997 book “Speaking Truth to Power,” Anita, who has made seldom public appearances or interviews writes that:
“Women who accuse men, particularly powerful men, of harassment are often confronted with the reality of the men’s sense that they are more important than women, as a group.”
A theme that runs in so many of the women who came forward:
“I was scared,” said Andrea Constand, the massage therapist who won her sexual assault case against Bill Cosby. “I was all over the place in my mind. I didn’t know where to turn.”
In January 2004, Constand said that Cosby drugged and molested her in his Pennsylvania home. Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault last Thursday, resulting in the first high profile case to have found the accused to be guilty since the #MeTooMovement.
On Thursday Sep. 27, Dr. Ford told the painstaking story of being sexually assaulted at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh at a house party when she was just 15 (he was 17 at the time.) She said he was drunk, and forced himself on her while his friend, Mark Judge, was present.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Dr. Ford responded to Sen. Patrick Leahy when he asked what was her strongest memory of the incident. “The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense.”
“My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed, ” said Ford during the end of her testimony. “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.”
Will nearly 30 years, a women’s empowerment movement and call for social responsibility against men who use their power to abuse women affect the decision for the Judiciary Committee?
“What happened in October 1991 should not have happened to me or anyone else,” Hill wrote in her 20-year-old book. “Nevertheless, it did. . . . My life has been forever changed.”