- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct, and it’s not the first time in American history this has happened.
- There are parallels between Christine Blasey Ford‘s allegations against Kavanaugh, and lawyer Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony against then-nominee Clarence Thomas.
- Here’s what happened in both cases, what Hill says the Senate can do better this time around, and how the allegations against Kavanaugh could impact American politics for years to come.
When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July, his confirmation seemed all but certain.
A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, he boasted experience in the Justice Department and the White House in addition to 12 years on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other than a squabble over the release of some documents from his time in the Bush administration, and multiple interruptions from protesters, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings went off without a hitch.
That is, until a bombshell sexual assault allegation from the early 1980s surfaced against him, bringing the confirmation proceedings to a screeching halt.
While such an event may seem unprecedented, a strikingly similar scenario unfolded 27 years ago during the confirmation process of Justice Clarence Thomas. Law professor Anita Hill was called into testify publicly in 1991 about allegations of sexual harassment she lodged against Thomas in a private FBI sit-down.
An all-male panel of senators grilling Anita Hill over her allegations and attacking her credibility was largely perceived as sexist, and brought the issue of sexual harassment into the national consciousness, as well as inspired a generation of women to run for office.
Here’s what happened last time, and how the lasting effects of Hill’s case could color Kavanaugh’s chances of getting confirmed to the Supreme Court.
A tale of 2 Judges — and 2 professors
The details of both situations have some similarities: both accusers are university professors who initially made their accusations of misconduct confidentially or anonymously, but were driven by a sense of civic duty to risk everything to come forward against powerful men.
Christine Blasey-Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University and Stanford, accused a drunken 17-year old Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her when she was 15 at a 1982 house party in suburban Maryland in a letter to her congresswoman Anna Eshoo. Eshoo then passed it along to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, in July.
After two months, Feinstein referred the letter to the FBI, the content of which was then reported on by The Intercept. Investigative journalists Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer (who, coincidentally, co-wrote a book in the 1990s about the Anita Hill hearings), tracked down and wrote a story on Ford for the New Yorker while keeping her identity anonymous.
On Sunday, Ford went public in an interview with the Washington Post’s Emma Brown, putting a face and name to the allegations, and offering more details to back up her story.
Kavanaugh vehemently denies having assaulted Ford or “anyone else,” and said he is prepared to testify under oath to that effect.
Hill’s allegations against Thomas in 1991 were somewhat different in that they concerned a pattern of harassment and inappropriate behavior as opposed to one isolated alleged assault.
During a private interview with the FBI, Hill accused Thomas of sexually harassing her and creating a hostile work environment over a number of years while she worked for him in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division and at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in the early 1980s.
After the interview’s contents were leaked to the press, Sen. Joe Biden, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, re-opened Thomas’ confirmation hearings — and called for Hill to publicly testify, which she did in October 1991.
“The most moving aspect of Hill’s testimony was the vivid portrait she painted of the vulnerability, humiliation and frustration she experienced while working under such conditions,” TIME Magazine writer Jill Smolowe wrote of Hill’s nearly 8 hours of testimony before the committee.
“She spoke of her fear of being squeezed out of good assignments, losing her job, maybe even not being able to find any job at all within the Reagan Administration if she continued to resist Thomas’ alleged overtures.”
Casting doubt on the women
Even after the #MeToo movement has brought down dozens of high-profile men and sparked a national reckoning over sexual misconduct, there are striking similarities between how Ford is treated now and how Hill was treated 27 years ago.
If Ford testifies, both women will have questioned by an all-male panel of GOP Senators. While there are now four women on the Judiciary Committee, they are all Democrats.
In 1991, Republicans on the Committee pressed Hill on the most sexually explicit details of the alleged harassment, and sought to undermine her credibility at every turn.
Why, they wondered, did she not report the alleged harassment at the time? Why did she take another job under Thomas at the EOEC after being harassed at the Justice Department? They pointed to Hill once giving Thomas a ride to the airport as evidence that she was lying about being harassed.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is still on the Judiciary Committee, even accused Hill of fabricating her testimony and adapting it from the book “The Exorcist.”
It wasn’t only the Republicans who were criticized for how they handled the hearing. Biden came under fire for not calling multiple witnesses who had volunteered to testify in support of Hill’s version of events as part of a deal with Republican leadership.
“I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill,” Biden told Teen Vogue in 2017. “I owe her an apology.”
Ford provided the Post with notes from a 2012 therapy session in which she discussed the alleged attack, and the results of a polygraph indicating she told the truth, (even though polygraph exams are not usually considered admissible evidence in a court of law), but that hasn’t shielded her from numerous attacks on her credibility.
Some Republican senators and commentators have zeroed in on Ford’s lack of recollection of some of the key details on the alleged incident, like whose house the assault occurred at, doubting the year it happened, and her not speaking publicly about the incident for 35 years, to accuse her of lying about the entire incident.
“Most women remember virtually everything about the circumstances of a sexual assault no matter how long ago,” Dennis Prager claimed in the National Review, an argument thoroughly debunked by substantive research that trauma psychologists and other scientists have conducted on repressed memories and post-traumatic stress.
Similarly to how Hatch and Thomas accused Hill’s testimony of being “contrived … by special interest groups,” and “slick lawyers,” conservative Erick Erickson claimed Ford was somehow put up to falsely accuse Kavanaugh of assault by abortion rights groups concerned about his stance on the issue — a claim Thomas also lodged against Hill in his 2007 memoir.
Both women have also been accused of suffering from mental illness or delusions. Some Thomas supporters accused Hill of suffering from “erotomania,” a condition that causes people to have wild romantic or sexual delusions.
Ed Whelan, Kavanaugh’s former coworker at the Department of Justice, wondered on Twitter if Ford’s “long course of psychotherapy included recovered-memory therapy, dubious method known to create false memories.” (He has since deleted the tweet.) Another conservative commentator called her a “loon.”
When asked by reporters to comment on Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh on Monday, Hatch said, “the woman is probably mixed up.”
What Anita Hill thinks the Senate should do this time around
The Senate Judiciary Committee now has a second chance to evaluate allegations of sexual misconduct against a Supreme Court nominee, and Hill laid out a number of suggestions for them in a Tuesday New York Times op-ed.
“That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement,” she wrote.
Hill argued the committee should designate “a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases” to do an independent probe of the alleged incident to produce the more reliable results and avoid any semblance of partisanship.
She also advised the committee not to rush the hearings on the matter, arguing their scheduled date of hearing testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday is far too soon to adequately prepare for a hearing on such a serious matter.
Ford and her lawyer agree. In a letter sent to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and obtained by CNN on Tuesday night, Ford’s lawyer requested that a thorough FBI investigation of the incident take place before her client will testify under oath.
Hatch responded by claiming the FBI “does not do investigations like this”, and said the judiciary committee would proceed as planned.
Hill said on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that the committee should “push the pause button” on the hearings until the FBI investigates.
“Finally, refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name,” Hill wrote in her op-ed. “Dr. Blasey is not simply ‘Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser.’ Dr. Blasey is a human being with a life of her own. She deserves the respect of being addressed and treated as a whole person.”
A 2nd ‘year of the woman’?
Thomas was eventually confirmed to the Supreme Court by a narrow 52-48 vote.
But the effects of Hill’s testimony not only brought the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the mainstream, it also had a lasting impact on the make-up of Congress.
The image of an all-male, all-white panel questioning Hill about the legitimacy of her experiences with harassment highlighted the lack of female representation in Congress, inspiring a new generation of women to take on the male-dominated institution.
The year 1992 was termed the “Year of The Woman” due to the record-shattering number of women who ran for and won seats in Congress. Twenty-four women were elected to the House of Representatives for the first time, and the number of female US Senators tripled from two to six.
This year, another record of 256 women have won primaries to advance to the congressional general elections in November. The sheer number of women running with the backdrop of the #MeToo movement could drive women — particularly college-educated suburban women who might not usually vote in midterm election — to the polls.
“This year certainly has the potential to be another year of the woman,” Laurel Harbridge-Yong, a political scientist at Northwestern University, told Business Insider.
“To the extent the concerns around Kavanaugh are adequately handled or not, this could mobilize white suburban women, a really key segment of the electorate, to vote for Democratic congressional candidates.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.