The Precedent


Out of the shadows, women across America come forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault


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In 2006, sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke started the Me Too campaign as a way to unite victims of sexual harassment and assault. In 2017, #MeToo swept the Internet, with celebrities and everyday people detailing their own experiences of unwanted advances by those in power. On Jan. 1, 2018, over 300 film industry workers came together to create #TimesUp, a reckoning for abusers and comfort for the abused.

Kevin Spacey. Bill O’Reilly. Al Franken. Woody Allen. The list of the accused spans actors, executives, and trusted officials. Men that have had previous run-ins with harassment allegations and those who left their fans heartbroken upon hearing their accusers’ words.

The past year’s wave of victims speaking their truths about years of abuse and its lasting effects is not something new. In fact, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped in their lifetime.

Singer Kesha notably described the entertainment industry’s history of abuse in a lawsuit against her producer, Dr. Luke, in 2014. In 2016, following a lengthy trial and series of lawsuits by and against Dr. Luke, Kesha dropped her charges of sexual abuse against her producer, marking a heavy loss for her fellow victims.

The treatment of Kesha’s accusations are starkly different from how they have been handled in the past year. Today, powerful figures in nearly every industry face such accusations. On Oct. 5, The New York Times published a story highlighting the years of abuse faced by those who worked with producer Harvey Weinstein, specifically Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. On Oct. 9, Weinstein was fired by his own company, a decision made much quicker than the prolonged trials by Kesha and Taylor Swift, and against the disgraced Bill Cosby.

Weinstein was merely the first domino in a chain that would topple some of the biggest names in entertainment and politics, such as the accused Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and Today anchor Matt Lauer who met their respective election loss and firing in November.

The Olympic gymnasts who accused Larry Nassar of years of abuse when associated with USA Gymnastics were one of the cases in which many were left wondering, how did we not see what was happening? The answer is simple: men and women were silent at the hands of a society so broken to its dealing with abuse.

As Principal Dan Serrano said, “The president of Michigan State resigned. There’s reports of stuff that was reported and it was put underneath the carpet.”

This same lack of reporting was seen in the hazing scandal at Hamilton High School, as according to an Arizona Republic report in November, “administrators knew of multiple allegations of sexual assault…and repeatedly failed to notify authorities.” On Sept. 22, 2017, three of the Hamilton administrators involved — principal Ken James, athletic director Shawn Rustad, and football coach Steve Belles — were reassigned from the school’s campus.

Flash forward to today, and Nassar’s trial has produced the same results with the shakeup of officials at USA Gymnastics and at Michigan State, where Nassar previously served as the team doctor.

“If you hear something and you don’t report it, you can get in trouble, you can lose your job,” Serrano said. “I’m very cautious, more than ever, about stuff like that.”

This same increase in reports is undoubtedly a result of the empowerment women feel in speaking up, as a woman who spoke up alone in the past rarely got more than a second look.

“This #MeToo, that’s huge,” Serrano said. “All kinds of people are coming out and addressing things that happened to them.”

In Arizona, state Rep. Donald Shooter, R-Yuma, was expelled after an extensive investigation found he was guilty of a series of sexual harassment claims by members of the Arizona House of Representatives. The decision to expel him was not Shooter’s first fate, as House Speaker J.D. Mesnard originally opted to censure him. As reported by CNN, Shooter’s ousting marks “the first time a state lawmaker has been expelled from office since the start of the #MeToo movement.”

Shooter’s expulsion is only part of the reckoning that has swept the nation. Tolerance for the boys’ club mentality that has long been the silent rule of the entertainment industry and politics has been swept away as women have found #TimesUp as a way to tell their stories and topple their abusers.

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About the Writer
Lauren Fountain, Opinions Editor

I am a second-year opinions editor with experience in sports and features.

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