March 29, 2018 Practice Points

Women's Rights: The #MeToo Movement

By Faith Deredge

Equal treatment in society, voting rights, and autonomy have been longstanding issues in the women’s rights movement. However, the recent #MeToo movement has illuminated another major issue women face: sexual harassment. Thousands of women across the globe have taken up the #MeToo movement to voice their experiences as sexual-harassment and rape survivors. TIME magazine recognized these courageous women by dubbing them the Silence Breakers and highlighting them as the TIME 2017 Person of the Year. Within the past two decades, 17,700,000 women have reported a sexual assault. This statistic likely does not capture the true scope of violence, harassment, assault, and intimidation inflicted upon women due to the multiple hurdles survivors face in reporting rape and bringing their assailants to justice.

The #MeToo movement started in 2006 when Tarana Burke coined the phrase to highlight women of color who have survived sexual assault. The movement caught fire in October 2017 when media mogul Harvey Weinstein was publicly exposed for his part in assaulting and harassing actresses within Hollywood. The #MeToo movement quickly spread outside the film industry to politics with the November 9, 2017, Washington Post expose of Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s alleged predatory behavior towards underage girls.

As the accusations mount and survivors continue to step forward, law-enforcement agencies are tasked with working within policies that make it difficult for survivors to bring their assailants to justice. One of the most prominent examples of this legal dilemma is the statute of limitations that prevents women who were victimized as children from ever realizing justice. Additionally, cases such as that involving former U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor Lawrence Nassar—who has since been accused of sexual assault by dozens of former and current gymnasts—highlight the issue of institutions that often insulate and protect abusers instead of the abused. In short, the #MeToo movement is an important chapter in the women’s rights movement that will hopefully continue to trigger conversations around sexual assault and restorative justice for survivors.

Faith Deredge is a law student at Temple University.

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