In October 1991, Anita Hill sat before five white male senators during Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearing and bravely spoke her truth.
As her former supervisor, Hill said, Thomas had sexually harassed her in the workplace. Her recollections and testimony — given long before the #MeToo era helped change the way we see sexual harassment and assault — were criticized, questioned, and brushed aside by congressional leaders. Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court shortly after.
But Hill's voice was instrumental in helping pave the way for survivors to speak up.
Photo by Jennifer Law/AFP/Getty Images.
Nearly 27 years after testifying, Hill — now a professor at Brandeis University — sat down with John Oliver on an episode of "Last Week Tonight" to chat about how we can keep moving forward in ways that empower and protect survivors.
"There's been a tremendous amount of change," Hill said. "There's been a change in public attitude, and there's been a change in the amount of information that we have about sexual harassment."
But for all we've learned, Hill still gets an incredibly frustrating question.
"So far, much of the approaches we've had is to put all of the burden on women," Hill noted. "One of the questions I get that just sort of sticks out with me is: 'How do we raise our daughter to make sure that she doesn't set herself up to be a victim of sexual harassment?' These are the kinds of things that we're thinking — 'If we fix her, then she won't encounter this problem.'
"In reality, she is not the problem."
Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images.
"She is not the problem" — men are. Can we keep saying that until it truly sinks in?
Because instead of focusing on teaching men about consent, society often tells women that their clothing or the amount of alcohol they consume are to blame for the actions of abusers. It's nonsensical.
More awareness campaigns are urging men to speak up and stop sexual assault when they see it. The #MeToo movement has challenged Washington and Hollywood alike to rethink how we view and respond to harassment and assault. So we're headed in the right direction in many ways.
But still, Hill believes men "need to step up."
"At this point in time, there are no innocent bystanders," she continued. "If you are aware of something — you acknowledge it, you know it's wrong, but you don't do anything about it — then it's the same as participating in it."
Watch Hill and Oliver's interview, which starts at about 17:50, below: