Brittany Swart, WAR, Int’l Intern
June 19, 2018
As the black SUV pulled up, the crowd pulled out their cameras and phones, and as the man of the hour stepped out, devices started clicking and flashing. People pushed forward, jockeying for the best spot, as the crowd clamored to see him. Most had likely arrived early; this was an exciting day. The moment had come. The crowd, however, was not at a long-awaited premiere but at a courthouse. And the man they had come to see was there not to hear his praises sung, but to hear a list of charges filed against him.
The man was Harvey Weinstein, cofounder and former chief executive of the independent film studio The Weinstein Company. Weinstein, accompanied by law enforcement, turned himself in to authorities on May 25, 2018, nearly eight months after allegations of sexual assault began to surface. Thanks to accusations made by singer Lucia Evans and an unidentified woman, Weinstein was charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct. While he maintains his innocence (Weinstein pleaded not guilty on June 5), more than 80 women have accused the film executive of rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. Known for having produced some of the biggest movies in Hollywood, he is now recognized as the match that set a movement on fire.
“Me, too” – this short phrase has created massive waves of shocking revelation and outrage in our society. Started by Tarana Burke, founder of the nonprofit youth organization Just Be, Inc., the #MeToo movement has let women share their stories of rape, sexual assault, and harassment on social media in solidarity with others. Ever since dozens of women came out of hiding to accuse Weinstein of rape and abuse, the movement has been gathering steam and continuing to speed up, bringing down such powerful and influential men as Roy Moore, Charlie Rose, Russell Simmons, Mario Batali, Danny Masterson, and Bill Cosby.
Alleged to have perpetrated acts ranging from indecent exposure to rape, these men (and dozens more) have all been accused of committing various sexual crimes against women. Most have either resigned their positions or been fired because of the allegations. Some have been charged; a jury in a recent re-trial found Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault.
We have watched as the #MeToo movement has exposed some of the most influential, beloved men in popular culture, portraying or revealing them as abusers of women, while also validating many abuse survivors whose quest is to be heard and taken seriously. This movement has made many of us stop and rethink what is acceptable socially and what is not.
Women At Risk, International (WAR, Int’l) stands with these women who have bravely and boldly made their voices heard—not only for themselves, but also for others facing the same battles. We believe that darkness loses its grip when experiences are brought to light. Some of our staff have long given voice to their own stories, knowing that one person’s courage to say #MeToo may free another from the imprisonment of thinking, “only me.” Whether on social media or with a trusted individual or group, sharing their stories can help survivors of assault, abuse, and other forms of risk to find others who will walk with them on the journey to healing.
As the #MeToo movement continues to empower thousands of assault and abuse survivors to find their voices, let us remember to stand up for those who are still unheard, including thousands of sex-trafficking victims throughout the United States. Once lured into the sex industry by force, coercion, or fraud, many victims are not only used but also abused by their pimps or traffickers, who may beat, drug, threaten, or isolate them to keep them cooperative and silent.
Like the celebrities who have come forward with their stories, #TheyToo have faced harassment, assault, and rape—many on a daily basis. #TheyToo have been denied the dignity and respect they deserve. #TheyToo have felt afraid and helpless, and #TheyToo have been bullied into silence. Although they have no platform on which to speak out, #TheyToo deserve to be heard.
As more victims are heard and more perpetrators are held accountable, let’s guide these rivers of righteousness and justice down to the thousands of women, men, girls, and boys who are trafficked in the United States and preyed upon by corrupt individuals. They may not be able to fight for themselves, but we can fight for them: through awareness events and preventative outreach, calls to politicians and the media, and everyday conversations. Just as the light exposed Weinstein and others, we can shine a light on this billion-dollar criminal enterprise. As the #MeToo movement gave voice to many, let us be a voice for the victims of trafficking.
Because #TheyToo deserve to be heard.
Everyone can do something to fight harassment, sexual assault, and human trafficking. To learn how to recognize and respond to these issues in your own community, consider taking part in a Civilian First Responder conference. Women at Risk, International (WAR, Int’l) has educated thousands of professionals and ordinary citizens across the United States through live anti-trafficking training conferences. Now, for the first time, these trainings are now available in a digital format, allowing anyone anywhere to access this training! We also offer a variety of other opportunities to get involved, help the most vulnerable, and make a difference.