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The LHS Review

#MeToo and the Movement to Speak Up Against Assault

David Diaz, Editor LHS Review

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By David Diaz

Sexual Assault victims, coming out about their stories, are no longer afraid of giving details of their specific experiences.  Some are using defamation cases to fight inappropriate sexual behavior in America and shaking up a culture of celebrity and executive gropers.

 

In a world where a victim’s credibility was often questioned or destroyed in court, social media has turned the tables. The powerful are often taken down before the investigation begins.

 

After sexual allegations in 2014 against Bill Cosby, a transformation had begun. A sort of backlash movement has been seen in the public discourse more frequently in the last 6 months, and awareness of such situations has increased greatly among the masses since the original accusations of Bill Cosby, once beloved by families as America’s comedian.

 

Other cases involving celebrity have made great headway in opposing gropers, grabbers and assaulters by giving voice to the victim.

 

Taylor Swift’s recent victory this past August over ex-Denver DJ David Mueller, who was found guilty of assaulting Swift at a pre-concert meet and greet, landed her on the front page of Time magazine as a Person of the Year.

 

Swift thanked her lawyers in a statement, as reported August 14, 2017 in USA Today, “for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault…”

 

Often times today these news stories bring sympathy to the victim and an unforgiving punishment for the culprit.

But more often than not in the past the victim has been silenced by out of courtroom settlements or no settlement at all.  However an important question in the discussion is why has this been happening so frequently as of late?

 

This could be because of a reputation that may exist for each side. Sexual harassment, has an interesting stigma in society. It brings embarrassment and shame upon hearing a lewd accusation. In the past the victims were unfairly blamed for finding themselves in the situation and often quieted by questioning the victim’s credibility.  Since the power of social media as a tool has fueled a social-revolution building awareness on issues spanning public health to child exploitation to victimization, a victim can now access the public directly.  

No longer can public relations firms, lawyers and the establishment media solely control the reputations and messages about these situations.

 

Still, the first Cosby criminal trial ended in a mistrial last June, which indicates powerful lawyers do make a difference in raising doubt about victim credibility in such cases, and the retrial is scheduled for April according to CNN.  

 

In a different case another alleged victim of Cosby, Janice Dickinson, won another important case in civil court when  a California Superior court ruled that she could sue Mr. Cosby for defamation after he  attempted to silence media reports with threats of defamation law suits and ruined careers.

Last month film producer Harry Weinstein, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, was accused of sexual harassment by a group of women who worked with him.  This accusation, which was viewed by many actresses in Hollywood as a courageous act, set off a deluge of accusations against Weinstein and other Hollywood establishment directors and actors by celebrity actresses coming forward on social media.

 

But people have been standing up for themselves and confessing their experiences lately. A movement called #MeToo, originally begun in Harlem to fight sexual harassment in the community but reinforced by actress Alyssa Milano, who challenged victims to retweet the #MeToo on Twitter as a way to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. 

The #MeToo movement has given victims of sexual assault a means to speak up in masse. The power of the movement resides within the unity of the people supporting it with the hashtag referencing that another victim had a similar experience, hence “Me too”.

 

Soon some of the most successful actors and comedians like Kevin Spacey and Louis CK were being accused for sexual assault or inappropriate sexual behavior.  The accusations spread all the way up to the United States Senate in which 2 sitting senators had resigned by last month.

 

Though another question has to be asked. A system based in due process asks whether or not these accusations are true. Of course a lot of the accusations are convincing and voluminous numbers are hard to discount. But without investigation the result is a bit trivial, so let’s break it down.

 

A victim speaks up that he/she has been sexually assaulted. So he/she makes an accusation that the assaulter is the culprit. The culprit is forced to resign his/her job, and is now considered an anathema.

 

Does anything seem off? Well if it is true, then nothing is off about the accusation. But how would you learn about the truth with this scenario? 

Who is the arbiter of truth? After all there was no evidence presented upon accusing the culprit.  It’s the victim’s side versus the accused.  There was no investigation to verify the truth. Let’s keep going.

 

The accusation goes viral as social media kicks in.  The accuser now has a number of alibis from supporters. Accusations are made by other people. These other people also confess that they too are victims from the same culprit. A case against the accused mounts in the media. The culprit is then considered guilty. Calls for investigation are finally answered and now the culprit may face  charges of sexual harassment or assault or worst of all rape.

 

To bring the question: Is it ethical to accuse someone if there are enough accusations? Even if there is few or no evidence, and no investigations are done. Of course situations can vary depending on what exactly happened, so there may be no right true answer, but rather, an ethical one.

 

 

Updated and Edited by Adviser Matthew Brennan, 2-16-2018

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#MeToo and the Movement to Speak Up Against Assault