As a survivor of workplace harassment and sexual violence, I know what it is like when your abuser is rewarded by society, free from the weight of their actions. That weight is transferred to the survivor who carries the burden of their trauma. When a survivor chooses to share their experiences we often ask them: “Why now? Why did you wait?” Implicitly, we question their actions; though they shouldn’t have had to come forward about their trauma in the first place.
Twenty-seven years ago, Anita Hill testified about her deeply personal sexual harassment past. Before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee she confessed: “It would have been more comfortable to remain silent. I took no initiative to inform anyone. But when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.” The committee was tasked with the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — to some an honorable man, but to Hill he was her former boss and assaulter.
Today, America faces an eerily similar predicament. The Senate stands on the precipice of approving the nomination of an alleged sexual assaulter to the Court. After years of being tortured by her past, Christine Blasey Ford shared her story of sexual violence she said was at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh. As a result, Blasey Ford has received death threats.
This is one of the reasons why survivors choose not to speak out. When they do, they are often questioned and re-traumatized. Their motives, choices, morals and histories are all placed on the table for discussion. Blasey Ford is willing to be examined by the Senate and her painful history will be splayed out. Albeit her irrefutable courage will be on display, too.
Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court deserves a fully deliberative and robust examination. The Senate should do the job we entrusted to them, rather than rush the nomination before the full Senate is provided with documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush Administration. This fact-finding standard was applied in Justice Elena Kagan’s nomination process and should be required of all nominees. Blasey Ford must be allowed to properly testify. We deserve transparency, accountability and exhaustive fact-finding in the Supreme Court appointment process. We demand this of our judicial system, so why not apply this same standard to the highest court?
Hill’s advocacy set a new precedence for how we interact and confront workplace harassment and sexual violence. The #MeToo movement has allowed survivors to shed the weight of their trauma. The time is ripe for societal change and that means in all factions of society, including the judicial system and especially the Supreme Court.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Valerie Landowski is a first-year law student at the University of Minnesota.