Anita Hill’s New Book Revisits Her 30-Year Campaign To Stop Gender Violence

Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Anita Hill at the Power Women Summit, Nov. 2, 2018
Heartbreak

Thirty years ago, a courageous Anita Hill testified before an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee to provide evidence that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

Since 1991, she has advocated ending "gender violence," having coined this term to describe the ongoing abuse that can occur to people of all genders, whether they are young children, adults, or the elderly.

In recent years, cultural awareness has shifted to include the understanding that all people, including the growing numbers of non-binary people, may be victimized in this way.

The various forms of violence that threaten the vulnerable may include rape to intimate partner violence to stalking to harassment to social media shaming. 

RELATED: Domestic Violence Isn't Just A Female Issue

Anita Hill has released her third non-fiction book, "Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence."

Now a Social Policy and Law Professor at Brandeis University, Hill has a new book that explores her journey. The book also describes how deeply entrenched sexually-based violence continues to be in America.

According to Hill, the linchpin that keeps this violence in place is the government’s inability to address the needs of the vulnerable by finally passing protective legislation that will end this abuse.  

The book includes diverse categories — rape victims in schools, Hollywood stars who have reported victimization of the "casting couch," Native American victims on reservations, and corporate victims in both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.

With enormous foresight, Hill repositioned this abuse epidemic as a public health crisis decades before the possibility of the overthrow of Roe v. Wade or the current Governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbot declared war on abortions.

When asked how he could consider making abortion illegal even in the event of rape, Abbot claimed that he would "eliminate all rapists from the street."

His callous disregard for the sensitivities of rape victims and of women suffering in abusive relationships has spurred nationwide protests in blue states that are focused on the rights of vulnerable populations.

Priorities have hardly shifted since the 1960s.

Several of America’s recent Presidents — Donald Trump, both Presidents Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan — have all been accused of sexual abuse.

While Kennedy’s infidelities were frequent and mythologized, you may be surprised to learn that Richard Nixon was accused of sexual harassment, as reported by Marie Solis in an article for Newsweek.

Even Joe Biden has been accused of sexual assault based on a 1993 complaint.

Hill writes, "Without a reliable and trustworthy system for reporting claims of sexual assault against men in powerful positions, the public is left to figure out the truth on its own."

When you consider the repeated reports and Trump’s recorded bragging about sexual abuse of women as well as the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, Hill wrote, "It wasn't that politicians didn't care about violence against women; it was that ending gender-based violence mattered less than other political ambitions, like enlarging the party base and beating [Hillary] Clinton."

The defeat of Hillary was such an emotional high for so many Republican men and simultaneously such a desperate moment for so many Democrats that it was itself another facet of gender-based violence.

Whether you lived through the "good old boy’s network" in which a male mentor was required for corporate success, or you were raised to believe that inappropriate touching was part and parcel of corporate life for women, some men and women have evolved, and many have not.

RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Assault & Harassment (For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed)

When #MeToo, began, Anita Hill was asked by People magazine, "Has anything changed since your testimony?" 

Hill replied, "And the answer to that is: Yes, but not enough."

Most shocking may be society’s indifference, including includes the victims’ hopelessness and acceptance that the system will fail them along with most victims of sexual abuse.

To prove this, Hill cites Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh who was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice and sworn in in 2018, even in light of testimony against him 27 years after Clarence Thomas became a Supreme Court Justice.  

Hill has managed to remain optimistic in spite of the millions of examples of grooming, harassment, sexual violence, and coercion as well as verbal, physical, and financial abuse that stems from unwanted sexual predation.

"We can end gender violence and we all can play a role in that achievement," she said. 

What can you do in order to see a different America? Here are 5 ways you can help Anita Hill in the fight.

1. Include more women in decision-making.

As the population ratio continues to include more women than men, acceptance of sexual abuse will diminish.

Although there are many women who are not in favor of a woman’s right to choose and various other platforms, America is still living in a patriarchal society where men control much of the power and the money. 

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When women feel safe to choose their preferences, will they prefer life as a "second class citizen"?

2. Educate young people.

Matriarchy is the answer, but in the meantime, what you think and say is one way to educate young people.

Finding ways to motivate rather than criticize, and to inspire rather than push, is the proven option when your point of view is the less popular one.   

Years from now, sexual abuse may be considered an unacceptable action punishable by severe prison sentences — that time has not yet arrived.     

3. Elect more women in positions of power.

Each and every election is an opportunity to shift power.

Not only government positions but every election, beginning with Student Council in school, is a chance to shift power from those indifferent to sexual abuse to those who support an end to gender violence.

4. Educate children of all ages about abuse.

Teach small children how to say "no." There's evidence that, to some degree, this has improved the physical and sexual outcomes for many children.

5. Educate teachers, police officers, and all those who have power.

They can prevent and punish sexual abusers. They need to be aware of the early stages of grooming to the later stages of rape and rape-related pregnancy in order to take the necessary steps. 

After 30 years, Anita Hill continues to be a tireless advocate to publicize and eliminate the acceptance of sexual abuse that has plagued so many Americans.

Now is the time for each of us to consider how we can contribute to her efforts to create a different environment for the vulnerable.

RELATED: The Sad Lesson Sexual Harassment Taught Me About Privilege

Susan Allan is a certified mediator and communication expert who created The Marriage Forum, Inc. For a complimentary consultation, visit Heartspace or contact Susan at susan@susanallan.org.