WashU Expert: The Senate has learned nothing

Blasey Ford’s testimony, and Judiciary Committee’s failure to act, were ‘deeply disturbing’

A rally at New York's City Hall in lower Manhattan Sept. 24 supporting Christine Blasey Ford and victims of sexual assault. (Photo: Christopher Penler/Shutterstock)

Christine Blasey Ford’s Sept. 27 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, describing her recall of a sexual assault and attempted rape involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in high school, has riveted the nation.


But the committee’s initial failure to properly investigate Blasey Ford’s claims demonstrates how little has changed since 1991, when Anita Hill presented similar testimony against Justice Clarence Thomas, argues Mary Ann Dzuback, chair of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“For those of us paying attention to gender and sexuality issues, the Senate hearing was deeply disturbing,” Dzuback said. “What became clear is how little the majority on the committee understands about sexual assault — how it occurs, its effects on survivors, and whether and how survivors choose to report their experiences. It’s as if their heads have been stuck in the sand.

“Over the past three decades we’ve come to better understand sexual harassment,” Dzuback said. “Anita Hill’s courageous testimony opened the doors to women becoming able to file sexual harassment charges and to see them through via courts of law or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Today, women have recourse, and some settlements have resulted in significant workplace reform.”

In the year of #MeToo and reports of longtime sexual abuse by Pennsylvania priests,  “we’ve heard brave testimony from women — and men — stepping forward to tell their stories about sexual assault; about the enormous damage done to their lives and health; and about the sometimes dire consequences they’ve faced in reporting those assaults,” Dzuback said.

“Where has the Senate majority been over the past year? Do they not care about the survivors of sexual assault? Are they only able to see the damage assaulters have done to their own reputations and lives?

“If anyone needed visible, painful evidence of how little progress the United States has made in attaining gender parity, this senate hearing was it.”

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