Welcoming the #MeToo Revolution
Make sexual harassment and assault a thing of the past.
I am among those women reading the expose of Harvey Weinstein’s attacks with a mixture of morbid fear, obsession, fascination, atonement, pride, and hope.
Fear because the stories told by his victims are going to ‘trigger’ me and arouse PTSD symptoms, like severe anxiety. I am also a victim of rape and sexual harassment by men in positions of power. High school teachers. My boss. Powerful political leaders in Washington. Board members of the company where I was employed.
Obsession to ingest the commentaries, because they are dominantly pro-victim and anti-predator. Fascination that Hollywood’s mainstream A-list is on the right side this time. Those few poor uninformed celebrities who spewed out unintended victim-blaming — Diane von Furstenberg and Mayim Bialik, for example — were ambushed by social media, forcing them to retract or further explain their position. Satisfaction that the entertainment establishment is holding the sick predator accountable for his actions.
Atonement, because somehow this societal cleansing feels a little like the reparations I’ve fought for in my own cases. It seems something akin to closure. I tried suing two attackers —incidents in 1977 and 1995 — but by the time I got up the guts to stand up to them I ran up against the statute of limitations in both cases. I spent a few years consulting half dozen lawyers, a few police officers, and equal number of therapists, in search of some way to expunge my shame and achieve some justice.
Pride, because my fellow females are stepping forward, out of the darkness. With each story, they embolden countless young professional women not to stand for the kind of treatment and work conditions which professional women have endured for decades, in all industries.
I recall having painful visceral reactions in 1998 when the general sentiment surrounding Monica Lewinsky was that she “asked for it.” Clearly she was being controlled by the most powerful leader in the world, clearly she was disassociated from reality and thought that he really cared about her, when he was actually destroying her self-esteem and ultimately her career. The fact that she was so summarily dismissed by the public made me realize it was a fool’s errand to go after my attacker, who was also at the center of power in Washington.
In an extraordinary twist of fate, 14 years later I found myself face to face with Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, the powerful Washington criminal defense attorney Plato Cacheris. How? When the statute of limitations prevented me from taking legal action, I confronted one of my attackers directly. He sent Cacheris to intimidate me into silence. It worked.
But media coverage of Weinstein’s behavior brings me hope. Hope that our society has turned the corner. Optimism that our culture and our institutions will finally recognize that women are not ‘free’ so long as we fear sexual assault at school, home, or work. As long as these predators are able to hide — even in plain sight, as Weinstein apparently did — they are free to find their next victim. That could be my daughter, my niece, my cousin’s daughter, or my friend’s daughter, or the daughter of a total stranger. She is someone’s daughter, and she deserves protection.
Bill Clinton. Jerry Sandusky. Bill Cosby. Dr. Larry Nasser. Roger Ailes. Travis Kalanick. Harvey Weinstein. These men represent major pillars of power in the U.S. — government, entertainment, higher education, sports, media, and entrepreneurial corporations.
With the powerful network of accusers now receiving admiration, validation, confirmation, and even some justice — I am very hopeful that future victims will not be silent, will not refrain from speaking truth to power.
What has changed? Why did the tide turn, as America has debated these cases for 20 years in the courtroom of public opinion? I would argue that women gained their voices in parallel to the evolution of the Internet. On-line confessions offered safe anonymity. The Internet allowed women to start sharing their stories, and then much to their surprise, they began to find strength in numbers. Cosby’s accusers were bolstered as more and more emerged, just as with Weinstein’s victims.
Eventually the advent of social media has given a platform to victims and their supporters to band together. For all of their flaws, by giving the public a powerful collective and influential voice Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have played a key role in turning that tide. As these public, democratic platforms have allowed victims to safely shine a light on the abuse of power, the spotlight has shifted. No longer can men hide behind their powerful offices while casting the cloak of shame onto their victims.
Truth is reaching the corridors of power — even in the media. At last.