Anita Hill on sexual harassment and survival: ‘You have to think: what is my life for?’

In the pantheon of women shamed for exposing the actions of high-profile men – before Christine Blasey Ford in 2018 and Monica Lewinsky in 1998 – there was Anita Hill. In 1991, the US president, George HW Bush, nominated Clarence Thomas to the supreme court. Senate hearings for his confirmation were completed without incident, until an interview of Hill by the FBI was leaked to the press. In it, Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment while he was her supervisor in two separate jobs, at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Among other claims, Hill said that Thomas discussed women having sex with animals, and pornographic films depicting group sex or rape scenes, and described his own sexual prowess and anatomy. According to Hill, Thomas’s behaviour forced her to resign from her job. The Senate hearings reopened, and Hill repeated her claims in a series of televised sessions. Not only was she not believed, her character and motivation were impugned by members of the all-white, all-male Senate committee. The senator Orrin Hatch called her allegations “contrived” and her motivations suspect as she was working with “slick lawyers” and interest groups bent on destroying Thomas’s chances to join the court.

Thomas was confirmed by a slim margin of 52-48. Since then people have been contacting Hill to tell her what they went through – and she has chosen to embrace the role….

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