Thursday, October 26, 2017

Next Steps for the #MeToo Campaign

Marci Hamilton, What Needs to Happen Next for the #MeToo Campaign to Fulfill its Potential, Verdict, Justia.

The social media campaign #MeToo has been an extraordinary space where victims of sex harassment and assault have found their voices. These victims are inspiring and you just want to believe that something good must come out of all of the pain that they have had to endure so long in silence. While the disclosures are amazing, they aren’t enough to ensure a Harvey Weinstein never happens again.


Frankly, it is impossible to hold powerful people, institutions, and organizations accountable without massive legal change. The culture that permitted Weinstein, Bill Cosby, priests Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, and Nasser free rein will not end even if every single victim of sex abuse, harassment, and assault comes forward, and even if we succeed in educating every citizen in the United States. Disclosure and education are necessary but not sufficient. It’s not just that these predators used their positions of power to inflict life-changing pain on their victims. Rather, the legal and social cultures have been structured to shield the wrongdoers and keep the vulnerable weak. They have been publicly shamed, but the power construct they exploited remains precisely the same.


Indeed, society has signaled to these men in power that it is ok to take the spoils of war—the women and children—as part of their deserts for battles hard-won in moviedom, the board room, and sports.


There is, however, another power structure that has been bucking up these powerful men who have wreaked havoc on so many lives: our state and federal governments.


Here is a short list of laws that need to change in the vast majority of states (the federal government can also play a key role by incentivizing the states to pass these reforms):

Plug the gaps in mandated reporting. Right now many states do not require coaches, private school teachers, or university employees to report suspected abuse despite the irrefutable fact that children have been sexually abused in all three arenas.


Eliminate the statutes of limitations for all rape victims, young and old. This needs to happen for instances occurring right now and going forward and for those that are in the past. You want to know who your predators are? Revive the expired civil SOLs for rape in every state.


Test the rape kits sitting right now in police stations and forensic labs across the United States. This is Mariska Hargitay’s mission with the Joyful Heart Foundation, which she founded. How ridiculous is it that we have all of this evidence of rape and we just let it sit? Well, refer back to the discussion of power above.


Fix the defamation laws so no predator can follow Cosby’s lead and use the threat of a lawsuit to try to silence the victims, as I discuss here.


Enact whistleblower legislation that immunizes sex abuse, harassment, and assault whistleblowers from adverse employment actions and from defamation lawsuits.


Create liability for organizations that shield and hide the actions of sex predators of every stripe.


Mandate insurance coverage for companies that will cover sex harassment, abuse, and assault by employees and volunteers. This way the insurance industry transforms itself from being a bystander and enabler to an active participant in changing institutional policies. People wear seatbelts because the insurance lobby made it happen. It could do a helluva job with this problem if it wanted to.


Lasting change is difficult. Nothing is more difficult, though, than shifting power from one group that has had so much force that it could squander and abuse it.

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