This weekend, California professor Christine Blasey Ford spoke to The Washington Post about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were both high school students in the 1980s. Today, Anita Hill, the professor and attorney who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment before he was ultimately confirmed in 1991, shared her thoughts on Kavanaugh and his upcoming hearings.
“There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better,” Hill’s New York Times op-ed begins. She continues to note the similarities between her experience almost 30 years ago and Blasey Ford’s now in 2018: “In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts.”
In a statement, as reported by NBC News, Senator Dianne Feinstein echoed Hill’s concerns. “In 1991, five days after Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment became public against her wishes, the Judiciary Committee held three days of controversial hearings,” Feinstein said. “Now, just one week after Christine Blasey Ford shared her story, Republicans want to repeat past mistakes, rushing the process to hold a hearing.” She went on to criticize the Trump Administration for refusing to perform a thorough investigation into Blasey Ford’s claims against Kavanaugh, adding that “the FBI and White House are failing to take even the most basic steps to investigate this matter.”
Hill has some more ideas about how to proceed, though. As she writes in the New York Times:
Refrain from pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing. Our interest in the integrity of the Supreme Court and in eliminating sexual misconduct, especially in our public institutions, are entirely compatible. Both are aimed at making sure that our judicial system operates with legitimacy.
Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee. Outcomes in such investigations are more reliable and less likely to be perceived as tainted by partisanship. Senators must then rely on the investigators’ conclusions, along with advice from experts, to frame the questions they ask Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey. Again, the senators’ fact-finding roles must guide their behavior. The investigators’ report should frame the hearing, not politics or myths about sexual assault.
Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate. That the committee plans to hold a hearing this coming Monday is discouraging. Simply put, a week’s preparation is not enough time for meaningful inquiry into very serious charges. Finally, refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name. She was once anonymous, but no longer is. Dr. Blasey is not simply “Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser.” Dr. Blasey is a human being with a life of her own. She deserves the respect of being addressed and treated as a whole person.
Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford are both set to testify on Monday, according to CNN.
Top photo via Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore
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