By Juliette Gaggini ’20
The #MeToo movement is an online movement which initially began 10 years ago by American activist, Tarana Burke, and recently picked up speed. It began as a way of bringing awareness and support to survivors of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. In October 2017, following the allegations against film producer and director Harvey Weinstein, the movement went viral and gained a hashtag, #MeToo, which many used to show their support for others and share their own stories. The movement, which was intended to be an inspiring way for victims to share their stories, has caused political division and significant uproar from the media.
Since the news about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct broke in 2017, many victims have gained the courage to speak up about their encounters with sexual abuse with celebrities. Bill Cosby, at age 81, was the first celebrity to be sent to jail during the #MeToo era with his sexual assault case. His lawyers argued for house arrest as they believe he is too old to go to prison, but the verdict came to be 10 years behind bars, since he could still pose a threat to women.
Well-known actor and two-time Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey, also had his misconduct brought to light during the #MeToo movement era. Allegations from over 10 men about his acts of sexual misconduct, especially towards younger men, were reported. The first to speak out was actor Anthony Rapp, who said Spacey made sexual advances towards him when he was only 14 years old. While publically responding to Rapp’s accusation, Spacey decided it was time to come out as gay, ultimately to undermine the severity of the pedophilic accusations. Following Rapp’s lead, even more people came forward about Spacey’s harassment and assault toward young men.
With people coming forward nearly everyday, the question of the validity of the accusations arises. Couldn’t the accuser be lying? There is growing concern for young men being falsely accused, and President Donald Trump even publicly said, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America.” However, studies show that only between 2 and 8 percent of rape accusations are false. Although presumption of innocence is important, it is also important to understand many allegations come out long after the actual incident, if at all, and cannot be proven.
Another important factor to consider when looking at the allegations that have emerged due to the #MeToo is that the goal is not to bash innocent men, but to support those who have dealt with the emotional turmoil of being sexually assaulted by a guilty party and bring awareness to the severity of the issue. As has happened with many “feminist” movements, men have yet again made this about themselves. Contrary to popular belief, #MeToo is a positive and motivational movement meant to instill support and security between those affected by such acts, not to dismiss comfort in innocent people, or as Trump pointed out, particularly men.
What gets overlooked in these situations is all of the negative attention that gets brought to the person coming forward about the assault. Past studies have found that only 310 of 1,000 rapes get reported, and a very small percentage of those actually lead to arrest or conviction. The growing acceptance and promotion about coming forward with past assaults is a step in the right direction, but there is still a hole on the law enforcement side, as most of the reported cases do not get further investigated. Estimated reports say that of those 310 reported rapes, only 57 lead to arrests. The numbers get smaller with every step of prosecution, leaving an approximated 994 out of 1,000 rapists walking free and only six incarcerated.
These numbers are not only concerning but important for understanding the magnitude of the issues at hand. #MeToo is a step forward in raising awareness of the sickening rape culture today, and helps shed light on the politically divisive issues.