#MeToo: America’s women speak out


Will Logsdon

The #MeToo campaign on Twitter encouraged many women to speak out against the men who have violated them. This unprecedented flood of accusations continues to rock Washington and Hollywood.

Will Logsdon, Senior Editor

During the months of October, November, and December, sexual assault cases have been brought against famous Hollywood producers and actors. Harvey Weinstein was the first Hollywood titan to be ousted by one of his victims. Rose McGowan and other famous actresses and writers came forward and claimed that he had sexually assaulted, harassed, or raped them. The horrific details of the abuse he inflicted on women was widely publicized and is credited with encouraging the victims of other abusers to come forward. Since the memorable day that these accusations were leveled against Weinstein, actors Kevin Spacey, Sylvester Stallone, Jeremy Pivin, James Toback, and Ben Affleck have been accused of committing sexual assault. In the political sphere, George H. Bush, Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, and Minnesota democratic senator Al Franken have also been accused of sexual misconduct. The other men accused include Louis C.K., Andy Dick, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Seagal, Tom Sizemore, George Takei, Chris Savino, Charlie Rose, and more recently, Matt Lauer.

Many women are asking, “Why?” Why have so many powerful men in Hollywood and Washington taken advantage of women? The abuse shocked many Americans and demonstrates that many women still do not feel protected by their employers in the work place.

Several high profile feminists came under fire during the barrage of sexual assault claims. Actress Aurora Perrineau accused Girls writer Murray Miller of rape when she was seventeen years old. Lena Dunham, star of the hit HBO series, responded by defending the writer accused of rape and was promptly ridiculed on social media as a “hipster feminist”. Many famous actresses who worked closely with Harvey Weinstein including, Meryl Streep, were initially quiet and did not respond to the allegations. Rose McGowan posted, “Ladies of Hollywood, your silence is deafening.” This stinging tweet epitomized the hypocrisy of sexism in Hollywood. Actresses passionately condemn sexism at awards shows, but refuse to comment on allegations against men they work with. How can Hollywood preach to America about sexual assault when they have harbored some of the worst offenders and been complicit in an industry noted for sexism? Americans have raised these questions to Hollywood whose credibility has slumped as a result of the recent and damaging scandals.

In Washington, credibility is also at an all time low. Hillary Clinton recently condemned Trump for the sexual assault claims leveled against him during his campaign. Many political commentators and analysts immediately criticized Hillary since her husband Bill’s accusers have reignited a dialogue about the abuse he committed. Roy Moore, a Republican who lost Alabama’s Senate Election on December 12th, has been embroiled in a sex scandal after numerous women accused him of sexual assault, most of whom were underage at the time of the incidences. The Republican and Democratic parties have both criticized Moore and many Republicans have refused to endorse him. President Trump said that he did not believe the accusations were true which angered Moore’s victims and many sensible Americans. In early December, Trump provided Moore with his full endorsement. Al Franken, the Democratic Senator of Minnesota, resigned from Congress last week after his own party called for his removal. Several weeks ago, an image surfaced of Al Franken groping a woman’s breasts as she lay passed out in a chair. Since the first woman came forward, others have issued complaints condemning his behavior.

Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, two beloved icons of Journalism, were recently fired from their prestigious positions at NBC and CBS News. Lauer’s threatening and inappropriate behavior was revealed on November 29th. It was reported by the Daily Mail that Lauer had a button located under his desk which could shut and lock his office door. A video also surfaced of Lauer telling former co-host Meredith Vieira to “Keep bending over like that. It’s a nice view.” His predecessor at NBC News, Katie Couric, said that Matt would pinch her bottom during interviews which made her uncomfortable. The key victim which came forward and whose story resulted in Lauer’s firing said that she woke up with her pants off in his office in 2001. She told investigators that his assistant had to help carry her to the nurse’s office at Rockefeller Plaza. Charlie Rose of CBS News was fired after being accused of exposing himself in front of other women who worked for the news organization. Although Rose was not accused of rape, the claims shocked many viewers.

The #MeToo campaign on Twitter was instrumental for many women who wanted to speak out against the sexual violence they had experienced. Other men and women who had not experienced sexual abuse posted a tweet with the hashtag to demonstrate their support for victims.

In our own community, women who have experienced sexual assault can contact local organizations that offer support and assistance to women who have been victimized. These non-profit groups offer services to women that the state often cannot. The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA) provides women who have been raped or assaulted with contacts to Rape Crisis Centers where staff are on standby to listen to victims and offer advice and legal support. Unfortunately, statutes of limitation prohibit accused rapists from going to jail if the crime took place before a particular date- typically this is ten to twenty years after a rape, but this varies by state. Many women are not comfortable speaking out against their attacker or going to law enforcement because of the emotional toll such an event has on a person. There are several clinics that are in close proximity to Forsyth County. Gainesville has a Rape Response Clinic that serves several North-East Georgia counties; the counties closer to Atlanta have more clinics. Students at South who have ever felt inappropriately touched or sexually violated by a teacher or student are urged to speak to their parents and contact law enforcement. Sexual Assault is prevalent throughout the United States and is not confined to Hollywood or Washington. In a CDC survey from 2012, one in five women, and one in seventy-one men reported that they had been raped in their lifetime. 1 in 20 women and men had experienced some form of sexual violence in the 12 months prior to the survey.

For Americans, these accusations have demoralized the ordinary people who admired and aspired to be like the accused men. Politicians, actors, journalists, and other individuals in the public sphere who were once role models for many Americans are now social pariahs. There is no doubt that many of these men are guilty of truly horrendous offenses. They bullied women less powerful than themselves, threatened whistle-blowers, and created abusive work environments. They do not deserve our sympathy. Our nation is experiencing an epidemic of sexual assault that is not appropriate or at all acceptable in a developed global nation like the United States. Women deserve to be treated equally. They deserve our respect.  They deserve a voice.