Anita Hill Urges Voters To Confront Presidential Candidates On Sexual Misconduct

October 25, 2019  |  

Anita Hill'n

Source: CQ Archive / Getty

The 2020 Democratic presidential debates have covered everything from LGBTQIA issues to race relations in America, but Anita Hill wants candidates to add an equally important topic to the conversation– gender violence.

On Tuesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Anita said, “We have been listening to presidential debates and I have been trying to keep track, but I haven’t heard one question about gender violence posed to the candidates,” said the social policy and law professor. “That needs to be addressed.”

And Hill is right. Not only did she wage her own battle against workplace sexual harassment when she stood toe to toe against supreme court justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, she lived to see the issue dismissed in 2018 when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court after being accused of sexual assault.

Anita said she was filled with “profound disappointment and sadness,” after learning Kavanaugh would move forward as a judge. “Because the perception that so many people had from that was that we haven’t made any advances in 28 years, and I know that that is not the case.”

Statistics show the deficit when it comes to addressing sexual violence who better to remind us than the Black woman who arguably took one of the biggest stands against sexual misconduct in our nation’s history. Not addressing this issue of gender violence only aids in the suppression of women, their careers and mental health.

One in three women reports being a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a 2019 National Partnership for Women and Families report. 90 to 95 percent of women who are harassed at work develop a high level of anxiety and depression, according to research conducted at Cleveland State University. This results in poor productivity, performance and an increase in work absences. If you didn’t believe misconduct hit women in the wallet, think again. Women who don’t address sexual harassment are also liable to feel weaker, or less empowered, which can keep them from negotiating salaries or raises, which further adds to the gap in pay and opportunities in advancement.

The inappropriate comments, groping or blatant disrespect, takes its toll on women who simply want and need to work. It’s hard not to imagine the possible CEOs, presidents, and editors the world may have missed out on because some men refused to keep their hands and comments to themselves.

Anita, although a victim, rose above her abuse but it’s safe to question the heights she may have reached had she not been branded by the ordeal in 1991. She became a professor and continued the conversation on race and gender on many outlets like Meet the Press, 60 Minutes and Face The Nation. A year after she testified before the nation, the number of women filing harassment claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled. She spoke out in support of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and wrote an op-ed in her defense.

In spite of Anita and Christine’s strength, we still live in a world where female victims of sexual harassment are 6.5 times more likely to change jobs, as Anita had. For Black women who already experience a 61 cents to the dollar pay gap, we’re less likely to disclose workplace harassment. And for the women who do come forward, they have to evaluate the financial risk they’re taking, as well as the possible retaliation, an arena of victim-blaming or other prejudice responses.

In this conversation of gender bias, it’s important to remember the women of lower economic status and education, who stay in toxic job roles because for them, there is no other choice. Many women won’t see their day in court.

We owe it to all women, but especially those who lack the resources or privilege to raise their voices. Safe spaces for women to work and express their grievances don’t exist for everyone. It’s important candidates have a plan to address this incredibly American issue, so we’re not reliving 1991 till the end of time. Given how striking sexual harassment is to women psychologically and career-wise, Anita raises a point we should all be pondering.

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