In an interview Thursday with the New York Times, Anita Hill says she and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford have been keeping in touch. Both women became nationally-known figures after accusing Supreme Court nominees of sexual misconduct, and in her interview, Hill spoke about how things have changed since she went public with her allegations 17 years ago — and how they haven't.
"People predicted that women would never come forward, and just the opposite happened," Hill told the Times. "They came forward in record numbers. Rules and practices were put into place, people started having conversations, lawsuits were filed, more cases went to the Supreme Court in the next three years."
After George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to serve on the Supreme Court in 1991, Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him. Thomas denied the accusations and was confirmed; however, Hill's testimony drew national attention to the problem of workplace sexual harassment, an issue that wasn't nearly as mainstream in the early 1990s as it is now.
In her interview with the Times, Hill noted that, although there have been positive changes in how America deals with sexual harassment since her testimony, "there was also backlash."
"You saw the rise in these forced arbitration agreements. Nondisclosure agreements took hold and started to rise in the ’90s. Increasingly, class action lawsuits were more and more difficult," she said.
Hill also spoke about Ford, who made headlines earlier in the year when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her and testified about it in front of the same committee Hill sat before nearly two decades earlier. Like Thomas, Kavanaugh fervently denied the allegations; like Thomas, he was eventually confirmed. Hill told the Times that she thinks Ford's testimony will inspire more women to go public.
"I think there will be more people coming forward," Hill said. "I have only one experience to base this on, but it was a pretty egregious and horrific process. And yet women said, ‘I didn’t even know I had this right. I’m not going to suffer in silence.’"
Hill also revealed that she and Ford are in touch with each other. She was tight-lipped about the nature of their relationship, however, saying only that they are in touch and that "I’ll just leave it at that."
During Kavanaugh's hearings, many Republicans cited the "innocent until proven guilty" legal standard in his defense, suggesting that because there was no hard proof that he sexually assaulted Ford, he should be presumed innocent. But Hill says that applying this standard to the confirmation hearings of a Supreme Court nominee — as opposed to in a courtroom, where the presumption of innocent applies — is damaging to the legal system.
"The notion that [Maine Sen.] Susan Collins spread about the burden of proof, innocent until proven guilty and applying it to a Judiciary Committee proceeding, a political proceeding, compromised our legal standards," Hill said. "The legal standard is a high principle of our legal system, a start to protecting us against wrongful convictions. It should not be denigrated or used to cover political choices."
Hill also prescribed several measures for protecting victims of sexual harassment and assault, including independent investigations of allegations against powerful leaders, implicit bias training, a system of publicly reporting allegations of sexual misconduct and a system for protecting the "the retaliation that now hounds the majority of those who complain."