The Pattern Against Women Speaking Out About Sexual Assault

The age of retaliation by strong women asking for accountability in their male counterparts has been defined by the #MeToo movement in recent months. Each court preceding and each Tweet is changing mindsets, culture our and society. We, as collegiettes, are privileged to be in the midst of this historical time period, to watch the world improve despite what seems to be a few frustrating government officials desperately trying to stop the powerful train of change by denying women’s allegations of sexual harassment and rape.

Our generation are not pioneers in this courageous act. Women have been speaking out and holding men accountable for years, even though their truths were discredited or shut down. One of our #RoleModels, Anita Hill, took the brave journey of speaking out against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, many years later after the alleged assault occurred…a situation that is filling up our social media feeds and tv screens right now.

So, what similarities do we see between the treatment of law professor Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of three women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of rape? One commonality is the denial of truth by powerful government officials.

Hill’s Senate hearing has made history and is known for being an embarrassing and insensitive response by our government to a victim of harassment. Some powerful quotes are frustrating, but important, in seeing how our society has failed to change since 1991.

Hill was asked to describe the “most embarrassing of all the incidents [she] had alleged” by then senator and former vice president, Joe Biden, as if sexual harassment can be ranked or rated on the basis or being most or least negative.

Former senator Arlen Specter was heard referring to Thomas’s alleged verbal harassment as, “not too bad,” thus undermining Hill’s accusation.

While Hill was asked about being a “militant” civil rights activist by late senator Howell Heflin, possibly nodding to Hill’s race and a wild connection to the Black Panther Party, and questioned of whether she had the “martyr complex” where individuals seek out persecution for their own sake of validation or gaining of attention, the senators turned a blind eye to serious sexual harassment claims about Thomas. Instead, they turned on Hill, asking if she had a political agenda or even a book deal she was trying to get at by accusing the nominee.

Attention was taken off of the investigation of Thomas’s potentially very wrong doings, and on to Hill’s motives, implying that she was lying or exaggerating for attention or power.

To really top all the insensitivity off, Specter challenged Hill’s statement that Thomas was trying to verbally coerce her into sex. While Hill claimed that Thomas relentlessly asked her out, ignoring her repeated “no’s,” Specter chimed in that because Thomas did not explicitly ask Hill for sex, her inferring sexual intentions from Thomas’s unyielding questions were, “mere allegations,” and therefore not qualifying for sexual harassment in his eyes.

We are seeing these exact simplifications in everyday life, and also on the news regarding Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh. Interesting theories about the alleged assault, and the number of years back it took place are being used to diminish the wrongness of it all.

Sadly, society and people in high government positions are quick to question why Ford is now all of a sudden making claims against Kavanaugh, instead of addressing the terrible assault that may have taken place.

What needs to shift is the dialogue. We should not focus on WHY the victim or survivor is speaking out now, but instead IF the alleged perpetrator did in fact commit the act of sexual violence.