It has been exactly 30 years since Anita Hill began her campaign against sexual harassment and sexual violence. In 1991 Hill stepped into the national spotlight when she testified at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. During her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hill described alleged sexually explicit comments that Thomas had directed at her. Justice Thomas continues to deny Hill’s charges.
In 1991 President Joe Biden was Senator Biden and chair of the Thomas confirmation hearings. Since the hearings, Biden has apologized to Hill for the treatment she received during her testimony. As Hill tells it, the President’s apology wasn’t sufficient. Hill’s opinion is that Biden was either unable or unwilling to control the proceedings during her testimony. Responding further to the President’s apology, Hill made it clear that she prefers real action on sexual harassment to a sorry.
Today, Hill is a Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Gender and Sexual Studies at Brandies University who didn’t set out to become an anti-sexual harassment crusader. Initially, she wasn’t supposed to testify before the Judiciary Committee. When a confidential written statement by Hill to the Judiciary Committee became public, women’s groups and the Democratic party, Thomas is a Republican, compelled Hill to go public with her claims against Thomas.
During a September 27, 2021, interview with ABC News, Hill stated that as an advocate for women, her sole focus was initially on ending sexual harassment. After achieving national fame as someone who stood up to her abuser, Hill began receiving communications from women who were victims of sexual assault and rape. The accounts of sexual violation prompted Hill to expand her efforts on behalf of women’s rights to preventing gender violence.
As Anita Hill sees it, sexual crimes will continue unless the national attitude towards sexual misconduct changes. Elaborating on that thought, Hill explained that there is still a tendency to minimize the trauma suffered by sexual assault victims. Being made to feel as if they are overreacting is one of the reasons victims don’t come forward, according to Hill.
Hill believes that outdated thinking regarding sex crimes is only part of the problem. How the system handles sexual harassment and assault claims also needs reforming so it no longer deters women from filing complaints against their abusers. Through it all, Anita Hill remains optimistic that real change is possible.