IOWA CITY, Ia.— A few months after the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill was asked to speak about the topic of sexual harassment on a college campus “not unlike” the University of Iowa.
“I said I will talk about this problem for two years, because by then we will have some solutions and some answers, and I will have done my part,” Hill told a few hundred attendees at a lecture Thursday night on the UI campus. “Two years went by, and I conceded that.”
Three decades after she testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her, Hill is still speaking at college campuses, urging the public to grapple with the pervasive problem of gender-based violence.
She came to Iowa, for what she said was the first time in her life, at the request of Iowa’s University Lecture Committee. The committee presented Hill with the UI’s Courage of Conviction award, a recognition reserved for those who have demonstrated a “protection of human dignity and the advancement of human rights.”
Hill took a moment during the lecture to stress that gender-based violence should be a campaign issue.
“Since I am in Iowa,” she said, alluding to the Feb. 3 caucuses, “I will just say we need leaders who will take up the mantle, who will get us where we need to be on gender-based violence.”
In response to an audience question, she reiteratedshe was underwhelmed by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s apology for his role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Hill’s testimony.
“The statute of limitations on apologies is up,” Hill said. “I’m sorry, but what are you going to do about it today? And will you promise as leader of this country — and it could happen — will you promise to use all your energy to address the problem.”
Hill has been busy since 1991. She’s been asked to provide input on a slew of issues related to sexual harassment and violence, ranging from allegations of sexual assault by Bill Cosby to former President Bill Clinton’s testimony about an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Hill was asked Thursday by an audience member what she would say to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who testified in 2018 that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a teenager.
“That she did an incredible job in an impossible situation,” Hill responded. “You educated the world about a need for government agencies and committees that respond in a way that allows for more people to come forward.”