News / Arts & Entertainment

Documentary Revisits Anita Hill Sexual Harassment Testimony

Documentary Revisits Anita Hill Sexual Harassment Testimonyi
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
Penelope Poulou
April 12, 2014 11:15 AM
Sexual harassment in the workplace was rarely discussed publicly until 1991, when a young African-American woman publicly spoke out about unwanted sexual advances during a Senate hearing for a Supreme Court nominee. Now, a new documentary revisits the Anita Hill case. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Documentary Revisits Anita Hill Sexual Harassment Testimony
Penelope Poulou
Sexual harassment was a taboo subject in 1991, when a young woman spoke out about her employer’s unwanted sexual advances during a Senate hearing for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and opened a public dialogue on sexual harassment. 

It was a "he said, she said" story. Law professor Anita Hill testified before a Senate committee of 14 men that her former employer and Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, had made sexual advances toward her when she worked for him. Americans by the millions watched an eloquent and poised young woman talk about a personal and painful experience. 

Nearly 23 years later, the documentary, Anita, by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock revisits those dramatic moments and puts the nation's progress on gender equality into context, especially for the younger generations.
 
“The issues of sexual harassment are very much around us in terms of what they will face going in, if not the workplace, into the military and maybe graduate school,” said Mock, adding that one in five women is sexually assaulted on college campuses yearly.

However, she says progress has been made since 1991.

“Now, the language of sexual harassment is very much in our lexicon,” Mock said.

After Hill’s testimony, women started talking, shared their experiences and understanding of workplace harassment came out in the open which, Mock says, made a huge difference. 

“The year after Clarence Thomas was sworn in, there was a huge uptick in the claims of sexual harassment that were filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission,” said Caren Goldberg, an American University Human Resources professor. 

Goldberg, who also serves as an expert witness in sexual harassment court cases, says many cases still go unreported or unresolved.  

“The media sort of portrays very large settlements as though they are the norm and in fact they are not,” she said. “Your typical sexual harassment settlement is of shockingly low financial value and when one considers the emotional and psychological toll that it takes on a victim to follow through with a lawsuit, often times the costs outweigh the benefits.” 

Mock says sexual harassment is prevalent blue collar workers. She says there are 17 million women who are low level skilled workers, often ethnic, who don’t speak English and are often subjected to sexual harassment.  

But Caren Goldberg says sexual harassment is pervasive. 

“White collar [professional], blue collar [working class], less well educated, highly educated, it’s pretty much across the board,” she said. 

Goldberg says a bad economy and the small financial returns from the average sexual harassment settlement discourage people from taking legal action and risking their jobs. 

In the military especially, fear of risking one's career and a reluctance to question authority create a code of silence surrounding cases of sexual harassment and assault.   

Kirby Dick’s documentary, The Invisible War, pulls open the curtain on the rise in reported rape cases in the military. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter spoke about it in an interview with VOA.

“In the year 2012, which is the last one we knew, they had 26,000 cases of sexual abuse in the military," he said, "and only about 300 were ever brought to justice."

For filmmaker Mock, Anita serves as a reminder of how far society has come. 

"We have a lot more knowledge today and understanding of what sexual harassment is," she said. "And people of goodwill who say, 'This is not right.'"

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."