In light of the tidal wave of sexual assault allegations leveled at Republican nominee Donald Trump and the firestorm of controversy it has provoked, we shouldn’t be surprised that more women are coming forth to tell their stories of abuse at the hands of powerful men. The latest to step forward is an Alaska lawyer who is accusing conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her at a dinner party in 1999.
“He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him. He was 5 or 6 inches down and he got a good handful and he kept squeezing me and pulling me close to him” says Moira Smith, describing how Justice Thomas groped her buttocks at a public event.
Smith was 23 at the time and is now a vice president at counsel at Enstar Natural Gas Co. Justice Thomas was previously accused of sexually harassing his employee, Anita Hill, in a widely controversial case that ended with the confirmation of Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice and a vicious character assassination campaign against Hill. Hill’s shocking testimony described how:
In lurid detail, she described Thomas as a boss who pestered her for dates and spoke graphically about pornography, bestiality, rape and his skills as a lover. “He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts,” she testified. The “oddest episode,” Hill said, occurred when he was drinking a Coke in his EEOC office. “He got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”‘
The National Law Journal spoke to three of Smith’s housemates, who all confirm that Smith told them about Thomas’ behavior at the time of the event. Thomas has denied the allegations.
Sexual assault and the improper behavior of powerful men towards vulnerable employees has dominated this election cycle, beginning first with the wave of allegations against FOX News CEO Roger Ailes by multiple employees and then the accounts of some dozen women recounting the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Donald Trump.
The prominence of the issue has created a space for women to come forward and tell their tales with some degree of confidence that they will be heard and taken seriously, bravely risking the backlash of misogynistic victim-blaming that has long defined the American response to a woman’s accusation.
From the military to scientific acedemia to nursing homes, men abuse women and other men at a horrifying rate. It’s far past time we began giving women the benefit of the doubt and send a message to the predators of America that this appalling behavior will no longer be tolerated. For his part, Justice Clarence Thomas has been nothing but an obstacle to progress, mired in backwards conservatism and following the cues of now-deceased religious extremist Antonin Scalia to a tee. Perhaps Scalia shouldn’t be the only seat we replace once Hillary Clinton takes office.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.