The TIME’S UP organization on Monday released an official statement, posted to their social media, regarding the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Last week, the Intercept published a story that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein had a letter regarding Brett Kavanaugh that she was refusing to share with her fellow Senate Democrats, forcing Feinstein to release a statement that she’d received a letter but was honoring the source’s request for anonymity. As more reporting followed—including the revelation that the letter involved a sexual misconduct allegation against the judicial nominee—its author made herself known by speaking to the Washington Post.
Christine Blasey Ford initially wanted to stay anonymous to avoid the havoc that coming forward would invariably wreak on her life, but as she told the Post, she began to “feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.” She came forward with the allegation that in high school, Brett Kavanaugh (who, she says, was intoxicated at the time) forcibly held her down, groped her, and tried to prevent her from screaming, before she was able to escape.
In light of Dr. Ford coming forward with her allegations, the TIME’S UP organization issued a statement on Brett Kavanaugh through its social media:
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“There was a time when business as usual could continue amid credible allegations of sexual violence. But that era has ended forever.
A man who could be our next U.S. Supreme Court Justice has been accused of sexual assault. There is no path forward for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination until those credible and serious allegations have been investigated We demane that the U.S> Senate postpone any vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination until a thorough and complete examination has been completed.
If confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh would have tremendous influence over the lives of working women for generations to come. A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land should not be rushed through without thorough vetting of all critical issues.
If this moment in time feels strangely familiar, it’s because it is. Listen to Christine Blasey Ford. A woman’s experience should never be valued less than a man’s career.”
Despite Kavanaugh’s record unpopularity and questions about his record, these allegations are the first really serious roadblock to his nomination. But whether Dr. Ford’s recollection of her experience is going to be taken seriously enough to postpone Kavanaugh’s nomination remains unclear.
More than anything, Dr. Ford coming forward draws further parallels between now and 1991, during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Toward the end of those hearings, Thomas’s former coworker, the lawyer Anita Hill, testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she reported to him at the Department of Education. At the time, few Americans believed Hill, especially in light of Thomas’s popularity at the time—his poll numbers actually rose, according to FiveThirtyEight, from 52 to 58 percent after Hill’s testimony.
But in the decades since, we’re reconsidering what we know about sexual violence—and Anita Hill casts a long shadow over the conversation. The #MeToo movement shook everything, ending careers and reshaping entire industries that had long been refuges for abusers and exploiters. That same FiveThirtyEight story points to another statistic that shows that, in 1986, only 17 percent of Americans reported feeling that sexual harassment was a “big problem” for women at work. In 2018, that number has jumped to 72 percent. It's no wonder that Hill is one of the founding members of TIME'S UP, and chairing the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.
Throughout the #MeToo movement, it's felt like we owe Anita Hill something. As a nation, we didn’t take her experience seriously when she came forward with it, at great personal risk. And though we can’t go back and change her treatment, we can still shape the future. What that statement does powerfully is point to the current moment, while asking us to remember the past.
It's a powerful idea. Let's hope the Senate Judiciary Committee listens to it.
Cady Drell is a writer, editor, researcher and pet enthusiast from Brooklyn.
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