5 years later, the great voices of #MeToo take stock of the movement


Once again, disgraced tycoon Harvey Weinstein sits in a courtroom, on trial in Los Angeles, as the tally of charges against him marks a milestone this month: it’s been five years since a short hashtag – #MeToo – has galvanized a broad social movement.

The Associated Press returned to Louisette Geiss and Andrea Constand, accusers in two of the most important cases of the #MeToo era — Weinstein, already convicted in a New York case, and Bill Cosby, once convicted and now free — for find out how their lives have changed, if they have any regrets, and how hopeful they feel after a decidedly mixed bag of legal outcomes.

The Associated Press does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted or abused unless they come forward publicly, as Geiss and Constand have done.

And we spoke to the woman who originally coined the phrase – Tarana Burke, a longtime advocate for survivors of sexual violence and a survivor herself – about her own journey, the resilience of the movement and the challenges ahead.

LOUISETTE GEISS: A TRIAL AND A MUSIC

Overall, Louisette Geiss considers herself one of the luckiest: when she tried to run away from a hotel room to escape the alleged advances of Harvey Weinstein, the door opened. She was able to flee.

Geiss, a former actress and screenwriter who in 2017 accused Weinstein of trying to force her to watch him masturbate in a hotel bathroom in 2008, was the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against her former studio .

But fighting through the court system — an experience that left her deeply frustrated — wasn’t the only way Geiss tried to cope. She also wrote a musical.

“The Right Girl” was swept away by the pandemic but will be produced live on stage in 2023. The show, with a top production team that includes songwriter Diane Warren, tells the story of three women at varying levels of power in a workplace plagued by a serial sexual predator.

“At the end of the day, you see the justice system is still not in the right place to bring it down,” Geiss said. “It’s really society that’s bringing him down.”

This reflects Geiss’ view that the latter moved faster than the former to absorb the lessons of #MeToo, albeit still imperfectly.

“I think the MeToo movement has definitely given predators a break to act on their inclinations,” she said. “I think they’ve been warned. And so they’re less likely to do it, but I think they still do.”

Sometimes, yes, she regrets coming forward. She worries about the effects on her children, now aged 7 and 5 – her youngest was just a few weeks old when the case broke. But it was also her children who made her understand that she had to fight.

“At the end of the day, to bring about greater change for women and children — for your child and for my children — it was important that I step up and do it,” she said.

It’s also why Geiss, 48, continues to encourage young survivors to speak out, even though she understands why they may not want to.

“You don’t want your name to be synonymous with Weinstein. Me neither,” she said of her pitch. “But guess what? They won’t go away until we keep shouting about it.

ANDREA CONSTAND: “IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO”

For Andrea Constand, the lead accuser in Cosby’s criminal case, the past five years have been turbulent, let alone the decade before.

Cosby’s attorneys derided her as a “con man” in the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, in 2018. Yet the jury nonetheless convicted the aging comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 2005 and a judge sent him to prison. Then a Pennsylvania appeals court freed Cosby last year.

Constand had gone to the police a year after the meeting with Cosby, which he described as consensual. A prosecutor declined to press charges, later claiming he had secretly promised Cosby he would never be charged – a hotly debated claim that ultimately overturned the conviction. And the first jury to hear his case, in 2017, was unable to reach a verdict.

Through the storm that lasted for years, Constand remained serene. She thinks these are just the early days of the movement.

“I think it was a much-needed moment to be able to address the issue (of) the depth of sexual violence – in boardrooms, in corporations, in the entertainment industry and generally everywhere,” Constand said. , 49, this month. from her home near Toronto, a rural retreat that she says brings her solitude and peace.

“A lot of trauma was released,” she added. “Keeping secrets can really make you sick.”

She continues to work as a massage therapist, while pushing lawmakers to adopt a legal definition of consent. As jurors in the trial of Cosby in Pennsylvania and Weinstein in New York deliberated, they asked for the definition — but the law in both states was silent.

She has written memoirs and created a foundation to help survivors of sexual assault in their physical, spiritual and emotional recovery. She also created a mobile app where survivors can search for trauma-informed services.

“I had everything to lose and nothing to gain. I was a loser, you know, really, coming in,” Constand said of his 2006 police complaint.

But despite all the twists, “it was the right thing to do,” she concluded, citing #MeToo movements around the world.

“You have…everyone coming out of this shame and silence,” she said.

TARANA BURKE: KEEPING UP THE MOMENTUM

Harvey Weinstein. R.Kelly. Bill Cosby. Two are in prison, one has been released.

And that’s exactly how the success of the #MeToo movement shouldn’t be measured, says Tarana Burke — as a scorecard of high-level ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ and through the prism of celebrity .

Rather, says the advocate for survivors of sexual violence, cultural change should be the key measure. And by that standard, she says, the movement has grown to an “impressive” amount in five years.

“Five and a half years ago, we couldn’t have a sustained global conversation about sexual violence that fit within the framework of social justice. It has always been framed within the framework of crime and punishment, or celebrity gossip,” she said.

Burke, 49, had coined ‘Me Too’ as part of his advocacy work more than a decade before a hashtagged tweet from actor Alyssa Milano following Weinstein’s allegations saw the phrase explode .

Just six months earlier, Burke recalled, she had attended an organizing retreat in California, handing out T-shirts and dreaming out loud about how she could revitalize her work and raise enough money to visit. black colleges and universities to raise awareness. When the spotlight turned to #MeToo later in 2017, her first concern was that the work behind her phrase would be co-opted. But she soon realized she had a huge opportunity.

“The kind of change we need to see lasting change, we are still working towards. But the change we’ve had in the last five years would have taken 20 years to happen (without #MeToo), and that’s amazing,” she said.

Burke has spent the last few years building an organization to promote the movement and has published a raw memoir, “Unbound,” which includes an account of how she herself was raped when she was seven years old.

Burke proudly notes that a new Pew study shows that more than twice as many Americans support, rather than oppose, #MeToo. But, she says, challenges remain, especially in bringing Black, Indigenous, trans and disabled women into the conversation, and in strengthening fundraising.

The goal now is to maintain the momentum and restore the initial enthusiasm.

Burke likes to remind people that in the first year, some 19 million people took to Twitter to say “me too,” attesting to their own experiences in a powerful collective reckoning.

“That’s why we have a movement that can’t be ignored,” Burke says.

___

Follow AP Legal Affairs Editor Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale and national AP writer Jocelyn Noveck at https://twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP

Previous Cabrillo College Launches Fall 2022 Semester with Enrollment Growth and New Initiatives
Next Kerala HC says no to plea asking for more time - The New Indian Express