2018 is right around the corner, and while 2017 has brought some hardships, there have been some great victories for sexual assault survivors. This has been a huge year of creating movement, making changes, and creating platforms to speak. Here are some tremendous victories for consent advocates that happened this year:
- Millions of people across the globe participated in the Women’s March.
On January 21, over 2.5 million people across the world - from California to New Zealand - protested against gender, racial, and economic inequality. The protest began in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump - largely viewed as a sexist and racist - as the 45th American president. It immediately became the largest single-day protest in US history. Millions of people marched for causes like equal pay, anti-racism, affordable birth control, and LGBTQIA rights.
- Laws and bills were passed to better support sexual assault victims.
California and Texas have both made moves to support men and women who have been sexually assaulted. In Texas, legislators passed a bill allowing students at universities to anonymously report any sexual assault - whether that be personally or for a friend. In California, laws were updated so that (1) prison time would now be required if an individual sexually assaults someone who is too intoxicated to consent, and (2) anyone who is found guilty of carrying date rape drugs with intent to use would be charged with a felony. Congress members Ted Poe and Carol Maloney also fought for the Megan Rondini Act. In 2016, Megan Rondini committed suicide a couple of months after she reported her sexual assault. According to interviews, hospitals, and law enforcement, her university failed in supporting her and giving her the proper care and justice she needed. The Megan Rondini Act was introduced to combat the issue of men and women being pushed away from hospitals if they have been sexually assaulted. The act would implement SAFEs, or sexual assault forensic examiners, at every hospital.
- Taylor Swift’s lawsuit victory encouraged victims to speak up.
Taylor Swift filed a lawsuit against DJ David Mueller after he groped her at a meet-and-greet in 2013. She filed for $1 in damages and won. Not only was this a huge victory for Swift, but organizations that provide support for sexual assault victims - including RAINN and the Date Safe Project - saw an increase in people speaking up about the unfortunate commonality of instances of harassment like Swift’s. RAINN’s sexual assault hotline saw a 35% increase in calls shortly after the case was settled.
- Hollywood took a huge hit as celebrities charged with sexual harassment were removed from production and jobs.
When over 50 women came out with accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of producer Harvey Weinstein, his career took an enormous downfall. This became a huge success for the victims involved; it also shed light on the pervasive sexual abuse in Hollywood. Other celebrities in the film industry also took large hits to their careers - many were removed from movies and positions - as multiple individuals spoke out about the sexual misconduct happening in Hollywood. Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Matt Zimmerman are just a few of the many that were accused of sexual assault and subsequently lost their positions.
Originally founded by activist Tarana Burke, the #MeToo movement bombarded social media after Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Shortly after, hundreds of thousands of women and men began posting across all social media accounts. The phrase was used millions of times on Twitter and Facebook, giving our culture a slap in the face by showing how common and pervasive this problem had become. In response, many people began replying to #MeToo with hashtags such as #IHearYou or #IBelieveYou. This was a huge movement that amplified the commonality of sexual harassment.
- TIME’s Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers.
Known as “the voices who started a movement,” TIME’s 2017 Person of the Year were individuals that spoke up about their experiences with sexual harassment. Activist Tarana Burke, actress Alyssa Milano, and musician Taylor Swift were just a few of the Silence Breakers. This was a huge win, as it provided an even larger platform for individuals who experience sexual harassment to speak on such a widespead issue.
2017 brought in some great triumphs that deserve to be celebrated. However, the fight doesn’t stop here. These launched movements need to carry on into the new year. Sexual assault survivors around the globe have gained momentum as the year comes to a close, but it’s up to us to continue this progress and encourage survivors to speak up. The change doesn’t stop here - let’s welcome 2018 with even more determination.