March 19, 2020
Since Alyssa Milano’s tweet on October 12, 2017, encouraging women to boycott twitter as a showing of solidarity against sexual harassment, assault, and violence, the #MeToo Movement started to rapidly gain momentum across the nation and ultimately has evolved into a force to be reckoned with. It is worth noting that the movement initially began in 2006 with New York activist Tarana Burke, in response to her efforts to support teen victims of sexual assault and violence.
Following Milano’s tweet and the widespread media coverage of the sexual abuse allegations against famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017, the #MeToo movement began to spread as a hashtag across social media and in daily conversation. Considering the pervasive phenomena of #MeToo, this article is intended to shed some light on the main impacts and ramifications of this movement.
1. Increased Public Awareness of Issues of Sexual Harassment & Violence
One of the top impacts of the #MeToo Movement is the heightened public awareness and sensitivity to issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, both in the United States and throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, sexual violence affects one-third of all women worldwide. A 2017 poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News suggests that 54% of American women report “unwanted and inappropriate” sexual advances, with 95% stating that this type of behavior usually goes unpunished.
Many findings suggest that while #MeToo is not the first movement empowering victims of sexual abuse, it has become known for its staying power; these findings confirm that the movement made a real impact in terms of raising awareness and encouraging action.
2. Individuals Feeling Empowered to Speak-Up
Now that the #MeToo movement has become part of the national conversation, evidence suggests that it sparked more than mere discussions. Google searches for information about sexual abuse have increased dramatically. According to John Ayers, a senior researcher and associate adjunct professor with the University of California, San Diego, even months after the beginning of #MeToo, millions of people were seeking help for sexual violence online. The EEOC reports that both sexual harassment and related retaliation claims are up by 13.6% since 2017.
3. Establishment of New Advocacy Organizations
The growth of “The #MeToo Movement” has given rise to many advocacy groups that provide moral, financial and legal support to victims of sexual harassment, especially in low-wage industries. Times Up is one of those organizations founded in January of 2018 by female leaders and Hollywood powerbrokers. Since its inception, Time’s Up has raised over $22 million for its legal defense fund, recruited more than 800 volunteer attorneys and connected more than 4,000 people with legal professionals to potentially pursue legal action. Time’s Up reports that it fields on average 80 calls per day from alleged victims seeking legal representation.
4. Enhanced Protections for Individuals Working in the Entertainment Industry
Organizations like SAG-AFTRA, which represents more than 160,000 actors and media artists, have implemented new initiatives, policies, and procedures to provide greater protections to their members. For example, SAG-AFTRA implemented its Four Pillars of Change Initiative, along with enhanced harassment reporting procedures for artists. In addition, the organization recently introduced a new Intimacy Coordinators policy to safeguard actors on-set during intimacy scenes.
5. Increased Focus on Preventive Measures & Training in the Workplace
As the battle against sexual harassment continues to intensify, employers are taking extra precautions to maintain a safe, positive and productive workplace. Companies make sure they provide adequate training for employees and take all the necessary steps to conduct independent investigations of sexual harassment and other claims. For example, in California employers comprised of 5 or more employees, including those who work outside the state, are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees every two years. According to LeanIn.org, 70% of employees report that their companies have taken action to address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.
6. Passing Legislation to Protect Victims
Many state legislatures have also been busy in the wake of the #MeToo movement. For example, the California legislature passed the following laws in the last two years:
No Waiver of Discrimination & Harassment Claims (CA Senate Bill 300) – Employers cannot require employees to waive their state discrimination or harassment claims as a condition of settlement.
Participating in or Testifying in Other Civil or Criminal Proceedings (CA Senate Bill 3109) – Employers cannot prevent employees from participating or testifying in any other civil, criminal or legislative proceeding as a condition of settlement.
All in all, the #MeToo Movement has had a substantial influence on how claims of sexual harassment, assault, and violence are perceived in society, and how they are addressed in the workplace and other settings. This continues to be an evolving movement that will have an impact for many years to come.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog, written materials or otherwise is intended as legal advice by the Reddock Law Group, Managing Partner Angela Reddock-Wright or any person associated with the firm. This blog is intended for educational purposes only. The Reddock Law Group does not represent clients in legal matters. We are a full-service mediation, neutral, investigations and alternative dispute resolution firm. For legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney with experience in employment law.