Throughout 2019, news of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse continued to drive our national conversation. While many missteps and missed opportunities made headlines, we also think it’s important to reflect on the positive and empowering milestones from this year. From survivors boldly contributing their voices to drive change, men striving to do their part in the #MeToo movement, and increased corporate accountability, below is a compilation of our top 5 defining moments of 2019. These examples serve as a guide for the many steps ahead in our journey to end sexual violence.
1. Survivor Stories Inspire a New Look at Accountability
The news media, the public, and the police had all heard reports that R&B singer R. Kelly and pop superstar Michael Jackson had sexually abused minors. Long before Surviving R. Kelly and Leaving Neverland, many of us had a hard time facing just how serious the abuse was. These documentaries challenged us to look at the actions of cultural icons and reminded us that people we love and admire are also capable of committing sexual violence.
The Netflix series Unbelievable, inspired by intensive reporting from the Marshall Project and ProPublica, also detailed egregious missteps of a police department and their callous treatment of a rape survivor.
The publication of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, also empowered survivors, unveiling a new allegation and calls for his impeachment by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Filmmaker and activist Aishah Simmons published The Love WITH Accountability Anthology, sharing stories of child sexual assault to compel a world which ends this abuse. Chanel Miller – formerly known as Emily Doe, famous for her viral victim impact statement in Brock Turner’s 2016 rape trial – continued to inspire survivors with her bold voice through the publication of her memoir, Know My Name.
These articles, books, and films highlight the important responsibility that law enforcement, organizations, and companies have in holding abusers accountable. They also drum home the importance of investing the right resources – human and otherwise – from the beginning of an investigation.
2. Valuing Women and Girls in Sports
From USA Gymnastics to U.S. Figure Skating, 2019 was packed with examples of how our Olympic sport programs protected those who abused and silenced survivors. While change has long been overdue, we’re starting to see organizations, athletes, coaches, and fans rally around the importance of valuing and respecting women and girls and making sport safer. For example, Women’s Health and Runner’s World, with partners Garmin and athletic shoe company HOKA ONE ONE, launched Runners Alliance, an initiative dedicated to women’s safety and addressing harassment while running. In collegiate sports, Cody McDavis, a third-year law school student and former Division 1 athlete, called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to ban student-athletes with a history of violence through his Change.org petition.
3. Men and #MeToo
Earlier this year, shaving supply company Gillette stirred public controversy after running an advertisement that challenged men to think differently by re-imagining their slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get” into “The Best Men Can Be.” This call-to-action asked men to change behaviors that reinforced harmful assumptions about masculinity. The ad made clear how “boys will be boys” behaviors create hostility, reinforce inequality, and threaten women and girls’ sense of safety.
Even men who make concerted efforts to do the right thing can – unintentionally or not – cross the line by disrespecting women and their boundaries. For example, former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, who championed the Violence Against Women Act and other policies to end sexual and domestic violence, struggled with respecting personal boundaries. Comedian Aziz Ansari took some time away from the spotlight to reflect on his fall from grace following an exposé about pressuring and coercing a date into sexual situations. His 2019 stand-up comedy special, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now,” addressed the sexual misconduct. These examples show how we as a society must deepen our understanding of consent and what it means to respect boundaries.
4. Businesses and Corporations Taking Responsibility and Driving Innovation
Online dating app Bumble used their popularity and leadership to push for important safety changes like banning users for sending unsolicited lewd images and even making it against the law in Texas. With the help of RALIANCE, Uber set a new industry standard by releasing its safety report, sharing information on the number of sexual assaults and other safety concerns. Travel platform Trip Advisor updated their safety features so users can identify safety-related reviews. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) celebrated the one-year anniversary of the hotel industry’s commitment to advance safety and security for hotel employees and guests. We’re also encouraged by a new resource launched by the nonprofit I’m With Them. The Misconduct Reporting Directory is a helpful and easy-to-use guide for how employees can anonymously report sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse.
With the help of RALIANCE, Uber set a new industry standard by releasing its safety report, sharing information on the number of sexual assaults and other safety concerns.
Organizations and companies have the power to influence entire industries as well as set new standards for safety, respect, equity, and inclusion. We’re encouraged by these companies’ bold moves and call on others to follow suit.
5. Title IX Comments: Advocacy Makes a Difference
In February 2019, during the 60-day period when the U.S. Federal Register formally published the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, advocates, survivors, and others submitted more than 100,000 comments – an estimated 20 times what is typically received for a major regulatory proposal. Advocates and survivors cited concerns that these new regulations would make it harder for survivors to report and would increase the emotional trauma for those who do report. Activism is important. Our elected officials need to hear from survivors and advocates when their decisions will have damaging consequences for victims.
These are just a few examples of the important, hard and courageous work happening behind the global movement to address the inequalities and power imbalances that enable acts of sexual violence. RALIANCE commends all those stepping up to transform our society into a stronger, safer, and altogether better place. Together, we can stop sexual violence in one generation.