Days before Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was set to be confirmed, a woman came forward with a sexual assault allegation against the 53-year-old attorney.
Christine Blasey Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, says that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed during a house party in the early 1980s. Ford says the nominee attempted to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. At the time of the incident, Kavanaugh was 17 and Ford was 15.
Kavanaugh and critics have been quick to deny Ford’s claims, but others have come to her aid. Former Vice President Joe Biden equated the situation to the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.
In October of that year, Anita Hill came forward during Thomas’ confirmation hearings to accuse her former employer of sexual harassment. Hill’s claims were vehemently dismissed by Thomas who called the hearing a “high-tech lynching.” In addition to heated dismissal of the claims, the cases share some eerie similarities.
Both Ford and Hill are college professors who brought accusations forward to a Senate Judiciary Committee which feature several of the same members. In addition, both accusations drew national outrage from conservative groups.
Where the instances differ is in the amount of evidence: Ford brings with her a verified polygraph test and other pieces of incriminating evidence which Hill did not have. While Christine Ford came forward much later than Anita Hill, Justice Thomas had been accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace as an adult.
Even the FBI’s involvement has changed. The FBI interviewed both individuals in the 1991 case but has refused to do the same in the current situation. Ford and Democrats have urged the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background investigation, but spokespersons for the FBI said the agency fulfilled its role by forwarding the allegations to the White House.
At this point, many are unsure of how the Kavanaugh confirmation will move forward. University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson believes it could go either way, but made sure to note that Thomas was confirmed because the “Anita Hill hearing was happening in a different time and place. The country is different. The #MeToo movement has changed the dialogue.”
In fact, many credit Hill’s testimony with an increase in public awareness, which eventually led to the #MeToo movement taking off. When the professor came forward, public opinion was to sweep sexual harassment under the rug. The term “sexual harassment” itself was only 16 years old when Anita Hill came forward and media attention was biased against women.
While Hill’s actions have sparked a movement and empowered more women to come forward in the face of public ridicule, Clarence Thomas was still confirmed. This story shows that history has a strange way of repeating itself. Let’s hope this is not one of those instances.
Featured Image by Will H McMahan on Unsplash
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