SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of people packed into a crowded room at the University of Utah to hear from Anita Hill, whose accusations of sexual harassment rocked the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Hill spoke about the history of sexual harassment law at the Eccles Alumni House, pointing out in 1976, Redbook reported 9 out of 10 women had experienced unwanted advances from a superior.
She did not want to compare her own story to that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s choice for Supreme Court.
“Any of us who come forward would like to have our stories heard and listened to and evaluated on the basis of our situation,” Hill says.
Arielle Blair, who attended Hill’s speech, agrees.
“It’s not about one particular person or one particular situation, but the fact that this is ongoing, for so many years in our society, tells us that we’ve got an institutional problem,” Blair says.
Hill spoke about the importance of people who have been the victims of sexual harassment coming forward, saying that it helps others understand just how broad the problem is. She also says federal laws designed to prevent harassment don’t always cover contractors who are not regular employees.
Stephanie Bush was in the audience, saying she knows firsthand what it’s like to be harassed at work.
“I’ve had bosses before that – male and female – that are very touchy,” Bush says. “They feel like it’s appropriate to hug… I am not someone that likes that.”
Flo Weir remembers a time when bosses commonly “hit” on secretaries.
“We dared not say that somebody else had been inappropriate with us, because that was our fault. We brought it on by our own behavior,” Weir says.
Hill addressed today’s hearing, saying she believes it won’t be fair, in part because she believes Dr. Ford was not given enough time to prepare her statement.
“No judge would allow it, but here we have a ‘judge’ demanding it. Not only is that ‘judge,’ Mr. Grassley, demanding it as a judge, but he is also the jury,” Hill said, referring to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Hill says access to equal justice under the law was what was at stake in 1991 when she came forward to accuse Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her on the job. She believes it’s also what is at stake now. That statement resonated with Larry Weir.
“Be yourself and do what you feel is necessary to solve the problem,” he advised.
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