Anita Hill: ‘We Want to Believe That Christine Blasey Ford Can Survive’

October 3, 2018, 2:28 AM UTC

The lights in a Laguna Niguel, Calif. hotel ballroom dimmed followed by a familiar voice that boomed from the speakers.

“My name is Anita F. Hill, and I am a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma,” said Anita Hill, in a replay of her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991.

It was the second moving moment during Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday that centered on Hill. After the lights went back up, Hill took the stage to a standing ovation—her second that day after 300 women jumped to their feet when Hill tried to introduce herself earlier in the morning.

“It doesn’t happen everywhere,” Hill said when moderator Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments asked her if this was a common occurrence. “It does happen in some places and I attribute it to a lot of things. … Today I attribute it to this moment in history that we’re all experiencing and some of the emotions that we’re reliving.”

Hill joined Hobson for a discussion about Christine Blasey Ford’s recent Senate testimony about her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It also touched on Hill’s perspective about that testimony and Hill’s work leading the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, a group that is connected to Hollywood’s Time’s Up movement.

“We want to believe that Christine Blasey Ford can survive, that I survived, and that each of us will survive this time and any of the indignities that we have experienced,” Hill said.

Ford’s testimony placed her much physically closer to the senators listening, in a more cramped space than the seemingly cavernous gulf between Hill and the 1991 Senate Judiciary, Hill said. That setup for Ford seemed like it would be intimidating, Hill speculated, especially considering that lawmakers had already seemed to have made up their minds about what she was going to say—and who didn’t seem to understand the relevance of sexual harassment to a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.

“They don’t get the connection between someone who would be abusing the law of the country in this kind of way,” Hill said. “How that person puts himself or herself above the law—what that says about their ability to be a justice deciding the law.”

Hill downplayed the notion that she’s the only person who understands whatFord went through last week.

“I’m the only person who has had to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but I really think that a lot of people have a good sense of what it feels like,” Hill said. “Any number of us have been in those situations where we either didn’t come forward because we didn’t think we’d be believed or we didn’t think it mattered. We have suffered some indignities that we didn’t care to share, but more importantly we thought that nothing would happen even if we shared it.”

Hill said she watched some of Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimony the day of and caught up on the rest after the fact—and that she would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

“I have had 27 years to process,” she said. “It felt very familiar, but it didn’t feel like me being there.”

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