Saturday, December 4, 2021

#Metoo, 4 Years In: ‘I’d Like to Think Now, We Are Believed’

For Charlotte Bennett, the new book coming to her Manhattan apartment this week — Anita Hill’s “Believe” — was more than just a look at gender violence.

It was the dispatch of a fellow member of a very specific brotherhood – women who have come forward to describe mistreatment at the hands of powerful men.

The story of Bennett’s harassment by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped lead to his resignation after an investigation found that he had harassed at least 11 women. And 30 years ago this month, Hill testified before a skeptical Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas had sexually assaulted her.

“I can’t imagine what it was like to do that in 1991,” said 26-year-old Bennett. “I’ve thought about it a lot.”

Hill’s history clearly predates the #MeToo movement, the widespread social reckoning against sexual misconduct that reached its four-year mark this week. But Bennett’s moment is a part of it, and he believes #MeToo is largely responsible for the fundamental change in the landscape since 1991, when Hill came forward.

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“I would like to think that now, we are believed,” Bennett said in an interview. “The difference is, we are not reassuring our audience that something has happened and trying to convince them that it has affected us. I would really like to think that we are now at a place where It’s not about trust—and that we don’t have to apologize.”

But for Bennett, a former health policy aide in the Cuomo administration, what prompted her to come forward — and bolster the claims of earlier accusers — also felt she was part of a community of survivors whose They had each other’s backs.

“I was really scared to come forward,” Bennett said. “But what reassured me, even in that moment of fear, was that there were women in front of me … (It was not) Charlotte v. Governor, but a movement, moving forward. And I was a small event and of reckoning. A small piece am involved with sexual misconduct, in workplaces and elsewhere.”

Charlotte Bennett, former government health policy aide Andrew Cuomo, speaks during an interview in New York, October 12, 2021.

There is evidence that Bennett is not alone in feeling the change. Four years after actor Alyssa Milano sent her viral tweet asking people who had been harassed or attacked to share stories or just replied “Me Too”, the mogul After the surprising revelations about Harvey Weinstein, most Americans feel the movement has inspired more people to speak up. About misconduct, according to a new survey.

According to a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, nearly half of Americans — 54% — say they are more likely to speak out in person if they have been the victim of sexual misconduct. And a slightly higher, 58%, say they would speak up if they saw it.

MeToo - Four Years Later - Speaking Out

MeToo – Four Years Later – Speaking Out

Sixty-two percent of women said they were more likely to speak up if they had been the victim of sexual misconduct as a result of recent attention to the issue, compared to 44% of men. Women are also more likely than men to say they will speak if they are witnesses, 63% versus 53%.

Sonia Montoya, 65, of Albuquerque, used sexist chatter at a truck repair shop where she worked as the only woman – the office manager – for 17 years. But as presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke out about women in 2016, he realized he had had enough. He demanded respect, inspired change from his allies stuck as the #MeToo movement.

Montoya, who describes himself as a free voter and political liberal, said, “It used to be brutal, the way people talked (at work). It was crude.” “Ever since this movement and awareness has emerged, people are much more respectful and they think twice before saying certain things.”

Justin Horton, a 20-year-old EMT in Colorado Springs who attends a local community college, said he saw attitudes begin to change as the #MeToo movement exploded during his senior year of high school.

He thinks it is now easier for men like him to treat women with respect, despite a culture that often opposes them. And he hopes people realize that men can be sexually assaulted, too.

“I think it has had a lasting effect,” he said. “I think people have become more self-aware.”

Half of Americans say recent attention to sexual misconduct has had a positive impact on the country – that number is almost twice as likely to be negative, the survey shows, at 45% versus 24%. As recently as January 2020, Americans were broadly divided over the impact of the movement on the country.

Still, there are signs that the impact has been uneven, with fewer Americans seeing a positive change for women of color than women in general. This coincides with frequent criticism that the #MeToo movement has under-involved women of color.

“We haven’t moved nearly enough” in that area, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke told the Associated Press in an interview last month.

The AP-NORC poll also showed a generational gap: More Americans under 30 said they were more likely to speak up if they were afflicted, 63% versus 51% compared to older adults. And 67% of adults under the age of 30 said they were more likely to speak up if they witnessed sexual misconduct, compared with 56% of older people.

Speaking has a price. Bennett said that Cuomo, despite resigning, is still not taking proper responsibility for his actions, and therefore continues to struggle.

“He’s still ready to try and defame us,” she said. “And I’m to the point where I’m exhausted. It’s been a terrible experience.”

Bennett has said that Cuomo, 63, asked, among other comments whether his experience of sexual assault in college had affected his sex life, asked about his sexual relationships, and said that he had sex with women in their 20s. were comfortable dating. Cuomo denied making sexual advances, saying his questions were an attempt to be friendly and sympathetic to his background as survivor. He has denied allegations of inappropriate touching by other women, including a colleague who accused him of groping her breast.

How is Bennett doing two months after his resignation? She responds intermittently: “I’m doing fine. Every day is hard. It’s sad. It takes a little bit of you. But… I make the same decisions every time. Cause I Was in public service had to be a good citizen and give back and do the right thing and contribute. I didn’t see my role that way, but that’s what it became. And that’s okay. I’m proud of myself for coming forward is, and I’ll get through it.”

She thinks about where the country might be in three more decades.

“I think considering Anita Hill’s experience is a great way to understand how long 30 years is,” she said.

“So what do I think the next big change will be? I guess it’s not apologizing for being uncomfortable. I can sit here and apologize. But I want to go to a place where we don’t apologize. Where it is ours, if we have the means and capability to do so, we can come forward.”

She added that the #MeToo movement should be not just a community, not just a “soft landing place” for women who come forward.

“It must be where leaders come from,” Bennett said. “We know how institutions work. We know the underbelly of these institutions better than anyone. We have a lot of solutions to fix this and we need to be on the table.

“This should be our table.”


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