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Reflecting on the Weinstein verdict: Has life changed?

It feels like a really long time since Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor published the story that kicked off the investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse and, some argue, the revival of #MeToo.

But it’s only been two-and-a-half years. And during that time, when “#MeToo’d” became a verb synonymous with “got caught behaving like a sexual predator,” more than 200 “powerful” men’s misconduct was made public, according to the New York Times.

Larry Nassar, former physician for Michigan State University and U.S.A. Gymnastics, was found guilty of sexually abusing more than 100 young women and girls. He’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.

The head of Vox Media was fired. Amazon Studios’ leader resigned. Kevin Spacey was blacklisted.

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, but not before the entire nation listened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify that he had sexually assaulted her in high school, validating the feelings and experiences of generations of women.

Dozens of actors, journalists, politicians and businessmen have stepped down or were forcibly removed from positions due to the new, post-Weinstein-dominated world in which powerful men would finally be held accountable for their actions.

I’ve been feeling reflective since receiving the push notification Monday morning that, after a weeklong trial, Weinstein was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault. Because it doesn’t feel like his trial has gone on for a week, it feels like it’s been going on since Twohey and Kantor’s first article was published on Oct. 5, 2017 in the New York Times.

The world is unquestionably better thanks to the 90 women who have spoken out against Weinstein’s abuse, and reporting done by Twohey, Kantor, Ronan Farrow (all three of whom won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for reporting on Weinstein) and others like them. 

I believe the courage of the women swept up in the Weinstein scandal led to the new wave of #MeToo and the growing feeling among women (and men) that sexual misconduct is worth speaking out about.

But for every powerful man who is found guilty of sexual abuse, there are countless more who won’t be. For every woman who speaks out about being sexually assaulted and is validated through winning a criminal trial, there are so many more who can’t, for various reasons, or who will speak out and not be believed.

Following the Weinstein story, like every #MeToo-related story since Oct. 5, 2017, has instilled simultaneous senses of frustration and hope in me; with his conviction, the latter is starting to win out.

It’s frustrating that Weinstein was cleared of predatory sexual assault, one of the five charges leveled against him in Manhattan (he’s also been charged with sexual misconduct in Los Angeles).

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But he was found guilty.

It’s promising that he was, officially and unequivocally, found guilty of criminal sexual assault and rape. According to the New York Times, he could remain in jail for five to 29 years.

Weinstein’s example — arguably the most public since Brock Turner’s in 2016 — has set the precedent that, post-#MeToo, if one of the most powerful men in Hollywood can be held accountable for his actions, anyone can be.

(Turner, by the way, lost his appeal to overturn his sexual assault conviction in 2018).

Weinstein’s trial also reinforced the precedent that’s been continuously bolstered by #MeToo — that women who speak out about being sexually abused will, at the very least, be heard.

As actress Ashley Judd, whose account of Weinstein sexually harassing her opened Twohey and Kantor’s first story, wrote in the Times yesterday, “This is the way it’s supposed to be. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

@kirbdavis

daviskn3@miamioh.edu

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