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Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence


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“To say that ‘Believing’ is a sobering read is a gobsmacking understatement…Hill deftly sweeps aside the intricate web of denial, bias and institutional failures to show not only the causes of gender-based violence in America, but also their solutions. She is brave, intelligent, and ultimately hopeful. San Francisco Chronicle Hill reveals the flaws in our politicians, courts and places of work. . . . Hill has the unique ability to provide a combination scholarly and personal view on this topic. “–Associated Press” Anita Hill’s bravery on screen inspired a nation to confront gender violence. In Believing, she teaches us all how to be brave. “–Gloria Steinem . . Hill’s compelling personal story, well-constructed arguments and persistent persistence in shedding light on the topic make this a must-read for anyone interested in fighting misogyny. “–Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed) “Hill’s new book challenges boundaries by combining elements of memoir with law and social analysis and polemic–delivered in the precise and vulnerable voice of a strong lawyer and the vulnerability that comes with being a victim to sexual harassment by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. . . Hill’s revealing insight shows how many and how little have changed in the past 21 years. Hill’s book inspires action and encourages hope. “–Library Journal*starred review*A strong argument that ending gender violence can be achieved if we put our efforts into it. “–Kirkus Reviews OneOur State of Denial” Far too many gender-based violence claims, including sexual assault, workplace harassment, and intimate partner abuse, go unresolved without any meaningful investigation. We often ignore inconvenient facts and dismiss them as trivial, even when we do actually investigate. Both failing to investigate and not addressing the findings are signs of a common denial of the pervasiveness of gender-based violence in society. Denial is not just an oversight. This is not an oversight. It is a strategy employers, politicians, judges use to avoid enforcing responsibility for the problem. Here’s an example: Denial in women’s health. Imagine you wake up one morning feeling pain in your neck and jaw, back, arms, nausea, lightheadedness, shortness or breath, and experiencing pain in your neck and jaw. Your doctor calls you hoping to schedule an appointment immediately. But instead, he suggests that anxiety may be a problem. He suggests that you use an over-the counter drug such as Prilosec or Tums for the stomach problem, or Tylenol to treat your neck and jaw pain. He says that the symptoms you are describing “do not appear to be too severe” and that rest should suffice for a few days. Your doctor may not be recognizing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Although I’m sure you have never had to undergo this type of treatment, it is something that many others have. Researchers discovered that women were at higher risk of misdiagnosed and mistreated cardiac arrests in the first ten years of the twenty-first Century. This was partly due to doctors looking for symptoms that were similar to those experienced by men, such as chest pain and pain in one’s left arm. Another factor was the assumption women were reacting too strongly to their health issues. Because of medical and social biases, women were not given tests that would have revealed their heart conditions. Women’s cardiac arrests were not diagnosed as panic attacks or heartburn. Women didn’t get the same treatment as men and the quality they deserved. This gender gap in heart disease treatment is not new. The gap persists despite being discovered a decade ago. Women are now dying and suffering from life-threatening illnesses as a result. This gap has been evident for more than ten years. In 2020, Dr. Susan Moore (a Black woman doctor) posted a Facebook video complaining that a White doctor treating her for COVID-19 had denied her request for pain medication. He challenged Moore to prove she was suffering the same level of pain as Moore and he refused to take his word on it. Instead of giving her the treatment she requested, he suggested she be sent home. Moore was eventually treated for pain but not in the manner she requested. Moore succumbed to complications from the coronavirus infection two weeks later. After a preliminary review, the CEO of the hospital expressed complete confidence in the “technical aspects” of Dr. Moore’s care. He called for an external review, and expressed concern about the “low level of compassion and respect” displayed by the medical team.
“To understand what is most important to patients.” An external review would also help us understand why Dr. Moore wasn’t treated with the compassion and respect she thought she deserved. Perhaps. Moore had blamed racism for the rejection. Moore could have been wrong to attribute the rebuff to racism or sexism. Similar disregard is shown when women complain of workplace sexual harassment or assault. Even if there are multiple allegations against an individual, most companies review their complaint-handling procedures internally. Some internal investigators are prone to be disrespectful of women who complain, as well as sexism and organizational loyalty. Many times, complaints go uninvestigated or are not properly probed and dismissed as minor. As with prejudging women’s abilities to communicate their medical conditions and ignoring women’s credibility in describing gender violence, the results are the same. Regardless of whether there is implicit or explicit prejudice, women suffer. Federal agencies were not the first to attempt to collect facts on workplace sexual harassment. After hearing from readers, Redbook, a popular women’s magazine, conducted a survey of nine million women in 1976. This was the first such study to examine the realities of women’s workplace experiences. The magazine’s report was titled “What Men Do to Women On the Job.” Redbook called the findings “eye opening.” Redbook described the findings as “eye-opening” and added that ads for Dynamo, Ivory detergents, and Arthur Murray dance lessons included accounts of sexual comments and groping, leering and extortion. Over eight thousand women responded that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Claire Safran, who wrote the article, said that sexual harassment is a “pandemic” and an everyday, everywhere problem. Redbook and Harvard Business Review teamed up five years ago to gather the views of business executives on sexual harassment in American workplaces. These are the three most telling responses of the two thousand participants in the follow up study. A thirty-four year-old female environmental engineer manager at a large industrial goods producer said that sexual harassment in her own situation included off-color comments, jokes about my anatomy, and sly innuendo before customers. She said that she had just left the company [a large chemical manufacturer] partly because of this. Another person, a fifty three-year-old male vice president at a small financial firm, stated that he was skeptical about sexual harassment within his company. He said that he used to believe that it was an exaggerated topic by sensational journalists and paranoid women. “Now, I believe the problem is real, but a little overdrawn. My perception is that there is very little sexual harassment in my company. However, I do not know the facts. “”This entire subject is a perfect example of a minor special interest group’s ability to blow up any ‘issue’ to a level of importance which in no way relates to the reality of the world in which we live and work,” said another man, a thirty-eight-year-old plant manager for a large manufacturer of industrial goods.In the 1981 survey, 88 percent said that sexual relations, even consensual ones, had “no business in the business world,” and 78 percent called propositions to swap sex for good performance reviews sexual harassment. These three statements are just a small sample of the business world’s views on harassing behavior. Each sentence describes a personal experience with harassment, responses to harassment behavior, questions about its significance or denials that it exists. Which of these perceptions is true to 1981 reality? These perceptions all accurately reflect reality in 1981. The comments can be used as a starting point to determine where we are today. Many of the same attitudes and experiences expressed in 1981 are still valid today. It’s also interesting that no other comprehensive inquiry into sexual harassment was conducted before Redbook, a women’s magazine, did its first survey in 1976. The survey was not without its limitations. Most of the women who answered the survey held white-collar jobs. The experiences of people working in agriculture, private households, and other low-wage jobs were not available. Data collection by the federal government began in 1981 when Congress asked for data from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board conducted two surveys. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began to formulate policies to address the problem. In 1980, the MSPB conducted two studies that found federal workers were more likely to be fired than those in other offices.
Many installations consider sexual harassment to be an issue. Too often, investigations were insufficient and no action was taken to correct the problems. To get a clear picture about sexual harassment and what effective prohibitions may have been, we must at least see it from the perspective of each participant: the female supervisors, male company vice presidents, and the middle managers, usually also men. Which of these people is most likely have been harassed? It is possible that they have. Who are the most likely to be held responsible for a company’s inability to stop harassment? If a company is found guilty of harassment or reporting it, who’s job will be most at risk? We don’t have enough information to be certain of all the answers. The vice president, who stated that he didn’t know all the facts but was willing to draw a conclusion, is my most troubling response. He doesn’t have to know the answer to the question whether or not sexual harassment exists, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lead a modern workplace where there are rules to stop harassment. However, he won’t be using his status to discover the answer. This is classic denial. His motives are clear. His obvious interest is to protect his company, not learn about what happens inside and address it. This is a familiar position. This was the year of Redbook’s poll. The Harvard Business Review poll was done in 1981.Making Harassment IllegalEarly cases of sexual harassment show that both the manager and vice president viewed the problem of sexual harassment in a similar way. The decision of the female manager to quit was also predictable. The idea that women could complain about the sexual comments and groping, leering or extortion that Redbook revealed was rejected by courts for decades. Some courts excused the behavior because it was natural and normal. The abuse of authority by supervisors for either sex is a recurring feature of our social life. . . . However, it is not sex discrimination as defined by Title VII. Her 1970s lawsuits proved that it was difficult to get courts to declare harassment a violation of the law. The decade witnessed other activism on the subject of sexual harassment. In 1975, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the head of the New York City Commission on Human Rights convened the first hearings on government behavior. Carmita Wood, an administrative assistant from Cornell University, who had filed a complaint against her employer, testified in front of the commission’s hearings about women and work. Lin Farley, who was also supporting Wood and other victims of harassment, also testified. Farley is known for inventing the term “sexual harassment”, which refers to behavior that causes women to lose their jobs because they say no “sexual byplay.” Freada Kapor, a Boston-based business consultant, began her work on “sexual extortion” in the early days of her career. Klein’s pioneering preventive efforts with businesses to identify and address issues before they were committed was the highlight of her expertise. Despite growing awareness of harassment and efforts to raise it to legal and social consciousness, harassment remained largely unchecked. A number of state task force surveys asked women in the legal field about their experiences with harassment between 1986 and 1989. Analyzing the surveys, Professor Marina Angel found that judges in many states solicited “sexual favors” from women who appeared before the courts. This included criminal defendants, civil litigants and lawyers (including prosecutors and public defenders and private counsel), lawyers (including prosecutors and private counsel), lawyers (including prosecutors and public defenders and lawyers), lawyers (including prosecutors and private counsel), lawyers (including a sworn prosecutor), lawyers, court clerks, students, court employees and job applicants. Rarely was it found that the conduct violated any state codes of judicial behavior. Sexual harassment is defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and its 1972 amendments as persistent, severe, unwelcome, or unwanted sexual behavior. In the late 1970s MacKinnon had created the legal framework to allow for two new types of behavior. These are called “hostile environment sexual harass” and are sex in return for employment, pay rises, promotions and so forth.
Pervasive and persistent harassment is a term that refers to workplace problems such as harassment that negatively affects workers’ ability to perform their jobs. MacKinnon was unsuccessful in trying to make these concepts law. Some courts rejected the idea. It is not surprising that this happens. This is not surprising. Judges routinely rejected MacKinnon’s argument that sexual harassment was discrimination in the 1970s. A series of male judges’ decisions showed a culturally-loaded resistance to admitting the cause of action. They refused to acknowledge that the facts alleged by the parties were a violation of law, no matter how vividly and horribly they described the reality in the workplaces of the complainants. Judges would either describe sexual exploitation as “normal” and too common for the law not to curb or argue that such behavior is biologically inevitable (i.e. boys will be boys) in order to justify refusing complaints. These subjective assessments of the behavior made it difficult for judges to see the legal consequences it had on the victims. Judge Frey served as a major in the U.S. Army during World War II. After leaving the military, he attended law school and worked in a private law firm before becoming an assistant Arizona state attorney General. President Richard Nixon appointed Frey to the federal bench while he was serving as a judge in a county superior Court. Six years later, he wrote the Corne decision’s opinion. This was the first case of sexual harassment to reach a federal court. Jane Corne and Geneva DeVane were administrative assistants at Bausch and Lomb in Canada. They claimed that Leon Price, their supervisor, had repeatedly taken unwelcome and unwanted sexual liberties with them and the other female employees. Both Corne and DeVane found the advances to be verbal and physical, and eventually escalated beyond control. They quit Bausch and Lomb and sued the company’s supervisor. Judge Frey, a Nixon appointee was loved by all ideologies. He was close friends with Senator Dennis DeConcini from Arizona and Representative Morris K. Udall (a Democrat from Arizona). Udall paid tribute to Judge Frey’s “mastery” of the art and praised his “mastery of judging” in an eulogy for handling a high-stakes Arizona busing case.
“An elegant and passionate demand that America recognize gender-based violence is a cultural problem that affects all people, not just survivors… It’s sometimes downright virtuosic with the threads it weaves together NPR Winners of the 2022 ABA Silver Gavel Award For Books. Written by the woman who testified against Clarence Thomas as a sexual threat, this book is a mixture of memoir, social analysis, law, and social analysis and a strong call to arms from one of these survivors Anita Hill started something in 1991 that is still not finished. Gender violence issues, which include sex, race and age, as well as power, are just as important today as when Anita Hill first testified. The story of America’s decades-long reckoning with gender violence is Believing. It offers insight into its roots and provides paths for dialogue and substantive reform. This is a call for action that draws on the lessons that this dedicated fighter has gained from her lifetime of advocacy and her quest to find solutions to a problem still tearing America apart. Gender-based violence, which can range from casual harassment to rape or murder, was once thought to be a problem that only affected a handful of people. But, we now know that it is a cultural and endemic problem, which affects our friends, family, colleagues and other acquaintances. It can also be verbal, emotional, and physical. White women are more likely to experience sexual harassment than those of color. Street harassment is common and can escalate into violence. People who are transgender or nonbinary are especially vulnerable. Anita Hill draws from her experience as a teacher and legal scholar and an advocate. She also uses the stories of thousands of people who have shared their stories to trace the path of behavior that leads individuals from one place to another: home, school, work, and home. She demonstrates its impact on all asps in measured, direct, and blunt terms.
It affects our daily lives including our mental and physical wellbeing, housing stability and economic participation. We also need to consider how our descriptive language hinders progress towards solutions. She is clear in her demand that leaders and laws address this issue immediately.

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