The #MeToo movement started over ten years ago, aiming to spread a clear message to survivors of sexual harassment: you are not alone. However, it did not gain widespread attention from the general public until the release of the New York Times exposé on Harvey Weinstein shook Hollywood to the core. Today, five years later, the movement is as alive as ever, with more and more women coming out with their own stories.
But has anything significant changed in these five years? Or are women just as oppressed and harassed as they always have been? Read on to find out as we take a look at the positive accomplishments of the movement.
1. The Banning of NDAs
One of the most significant discoveries of the Weinstein case was that powerful men use nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to cover up any sexual harassment allegations. In the Weinstein case, these agreements were a part of a settlement the women had to sign.
The NDAs would silence the women and forbid them from ever bringing up any abuse they had suffered. In return, they would receive money. This tactic of buying the victim’s silence allowed the men to repeat their behaviors over and over again.
However, things are starting to change. Several states, including California, New York, and New Jersey, have banned the use of NDAs in cases of sexual assault. In addition, several federal acts have been introduced, all aimed at prohibiting certain types of NDAs in different harassment cases.
While these steps are still small, they are taking things in the right direction. Their primary purpose is to inspire women to come out and share their stories with the world. It seems to be working so far.
2. More Protection for Workers
Of course, sexual harassment isn’t just reserved for Hollywood, as power dynamics are typical in any workplace. Women all over the world are struggling to maintain their positions and thrive in male-dominated domains. They often have to stay silent about sexual misconduct to keep their jobs and reputations.
Many companies are changing their policies to put an end to these kinds of situations. Apart from creating more diverse environments and putting women in positions of power, companies have tried other approaches as well.
Namely, some hotels have introduced panic buttons for all their employees. These buttons connect to a system that lets security personnel know when the employees are in danger at work. Many women found these buttons helpful when they were harassed at work, saying they feel safer knowing they have a way out.
3. Many Survivors Got Restitution
One of the defining moments of the last five years was the case of Larry Nassar, the former team doctor of the American gymnasts. He was found guilty of assaulting over 100 girls and teens, as well as for having child pornography in his possession. The court sentenced him to 40 to 175 years in prison, meaning that he will not be getting out of there alive.
Hundreds of athletes testified against him and the Michigan State University, which had to pay between $250,000 and $2.5 million to each victim. It was the largest settlement fund ever created by a University for a sexual assault case.
This case started a wave of restitution payments for victims all over the country. Women in all spheres started demanding justice, and it paid off, quite literally. For example, the EEOC won over $70 million from different companies on behalf of survivors in 2018. This number was almost 50% higher than in the year before.
4. The Movement to End Tipped Minimum Wage Has Taken Off
Restaurant and bar workers are often those who experience the most sexual harassment. Whether the abuse is verbal or physical, these women are too often the targets of people who treat them as if taking abuse is in their job description.
These workers are too afraid to come forward or stand up for themselves as it would result in losing tips. For many of them, that would mean not being able to pay their bills and buy food.
To put an end to this, seven states have put an end to tipped minimum wage, and others will soon follow. The #MeToo movement and the stories of the brave women who wanted to stand up for themselves inspired these changes.
Of course, the fight is far from over. For tipped minimum wage to become history, both the House and the Senate have to agree. For now, that still hasn’t happened.
5. The Time’s Up Legal Fund Helped Thousands
Many people can never even dream about seeking justice, as suing their assaulter would be too expensive. To that end, many legal funds have popped up in the last few years, including the Time’s Up Legal Fund.
These funds help women get justice by paying for all their legal fees. Since its launch in 2018, Time’s Up has helped over 3,600 women find an attorney and start pursuing their cases. With the way their message is spreading around the country, this number will surely only grow.
A Few Parting Words
The #MeToo movement has helped make tremendous progress when it comes to raising awareness of sexual assault. From financial restitution to assisting women in pursuing their cases in court, it is undeniable that the movement has helped immensely.
However, there is still a long way to go. Real change needs to begin at the top, and the Senate and Congress are yet to take any real action. Until they do, there is only so much a hashtag and any number of brave women can really do.