How the legal system has failed victims of sexual assault once again.

Warning: this piece deals with mentions of rape, sexual assault and abuse. 

It all began on Oct. 5, 2017, with an article in the New York Times which contained accusations agaisnt Harvey Weinstein, a revered movie producer, of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Ashley Judd and Emily Nestor. They were the first women to publicly come forward and share their experiences with Weinstein.

Although the #Metoo movement has existed since 2006, and was started by Tarana Burke, following her own personal experience with sexual abuse, the movement became widely popular in 2017. The use of the hashtag by Alyssa Milano on October 15 of that year is what revived it.

Burke’s goal was to “build a community of advocates, driven by survivors, who will be at the forefront of creating solutions to interrupt sexual violence in their communities.” The #MeToo movement is an amazing medium that has encouraged women to come forward with their stories. It helped them to no longer be afraid of sharing what they’ve been through.

The fact that Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison instead of walking away free is a great victory, but why did it take over three years for him to be convicted? the legal system definitely has to become more tailored to these cases, as it can be traumatic having to tell time after time what these survivors went through, especially when they aren’t believed. It’s quite upsetting and unjust that these hearings take forever.

According to an article by CNBC, the maximum sentence for rape in New York is 29 years. This is yet another instance where the legal system continues to reduce the consequences of dire actions, especially when powerful people hire the best lawyers in the field. In order to keep this from happening again, the justice system has to change and become easier for victims to navigate. The stigma and discreditation of victims are some of the numerous reasons  why so many survivors are ashamed to come forward.

According to Beverly Engel, a psychologist at Psychology Today, three out four victims of sexual harassment decide against telling anyone in authority about the abuse. Instead, they choose to avoid the abuser, downplay the gravity of the situation or attempt to ignore what is going on. Feelings of shame, denial—especially when the victim blames themselves for  the abuse––and fear of consequences fuel the desire to stay silent. Combined with the fact that the legal system can be overwhelming to navigate without a lawyer, since some can’t possibly afford one, the system unconsciously grants privilege to the accused.

It’s honestly disheartening that we continue to live in a world where class and fame determine the chance of someone being taken seriously in a court of law.

If the legal system were to offer more options for victims to have proper representation, quicker court hearings and not have their stories questioned every second, we could make sure that more rapists and abusers end up behind bars.

As a society, people in positions of authority such as the police force and important players in the judicial system need to change their ways of viewing these survivors. Victim-blaming isn’t going to help anyone. Times have changed and the legal system needs to go through an enormous reformation for the better. 



Photo collage by Laurence B.D

Briefs News

World in brief: Weinstein convicted, more climate protests, updates on COVID-19 and Buttigieg drops out of Democratic race

Harvey Weinstein was convicted in the rape and sexual assault of two women, on Feb. 24. The charges will carry up to 29 years behind bars. Accusations against Weinstein began in 2017, sparking the #MeToo movement, gathering global attention and encouraging victims of sexual violence to come forward. Weinstein’s lawyers have said they will appeal, as reported by The Associated Press. Weinstein was acquitted on two other accounts of predatory sexual assault.

On Friday, Bristol welcomed Greta Thunberg, as an estimated 22,000 people took to the streets to participate in the “Youth Strike 4 Climate” protest. The young climate activist marched alongside those in attendance in the southwestern English city, reports The Globe and Mail. Thunberg’s movement has continued globally, as frustrations with impending climate change increase. “I will not be silenced while the world is on fire, will you?” asked Thunberg.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues its global sweep, affecting over 60 countries. The death toll worldwide has reached at least 3,000 and infected 88,000 people around the world. The virus has caused lockdowns and emptied streets, affecting the financial markets. Countries are losing their tourism revenue across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. France has temporarily closed the iconic Louvre as of Sunday, in fear of the virus spreading further, reports The Associated Press. 

Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, announced on Sunday he was backing out of the race for  the Democratic presidential nomination. The Guardian reports that Buttigieg was unable to make progress in Nevada and South Carolina. After Joe Biden’s win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Biden hopes to establish support from Buttigieg in order to win the nomination. Though the Democrats are competing for the nomination, they have a common goal. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values,” said Buttigieg, as reported by Variety.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Separating artists from their behaviours

Why it’s acceptable to appreciate the work of people accused of sexual violence

According to several news outlets, Netflix has “completely dropped” actor and producer Kevin Spacey due to several sexual assault allegations. With this comes the question of whether supporting Spacey’s projects means you are supporting the actor’s actions.

It is not a new debate, as many famous individuals have been caught engaging in unsavoury and, in some cases, criminal activities. Despite all this, the accomplishments of these people have been and will be remembered more than the individual and their downfalls.

This is why, in my opinion, you can support great art despite the actions of the artist.

Before we talk about the most recent cases, like Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, we should look back at past examples. Arguably the most famous, or should I say infamous example, is French-Polish director Roman Polanski. Polanski was convicted of “unlawful sexual intercourse” in 1977 after allegedly drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. Originally, he was charged with five different crimes related to the incident, but eventually took a plea bargain and was convicted on the previously mentioned lesser charge. Despite all of this, Polanski is, and will likely be, recognized as one of the best film directors of all time, with classics like The Pianist.

Another example is Woody Allen. Despite the allegations of child abuse against him, according to BBC News, Allen is known as a fantastic actor, producer and director. It isn’t just figures in film though. Some athletes have had very troubling personal lives, yet are regarded as some of the best in their field.

People like Spacey and Weinstein are currently in the news for their despicable actions, but what I wonder is, will they always be? Spacey has starred in amazing projects, like American Beauty, Se7en and Netflix’s House of Cards. Weinstein has produced films like Gangs of New York, Pulp Fiction and won an Academy Award for his work on Shakespeare in Love.

I believe the heinous actions allegedly done by those in the entertainment industry will usually be overlooked in favour of their achievements. While this is an eye-opener on how our society views celebrities, it also points to why a person shouldn’t feel bad for supporting the project or accomplishments of these people.

Using Shakespeare in Love as an example, Weinstein was one of five people to share the Oscar for Best Picture. Should the four others involved in that film suffer because of his actions? Shakespeare in Love also won six other Oscars that year; should Weinstein’s actions muddle the accomplishments of the actors in his films as well? The same argument can be made for Spacey: why should the hard work of those involved with his projects be shunned?

With the fate of House of Cards up in the air, the city of Baltimore (where the show is filmed) is also at risk of suffering for Spacey’s actions. According to an article from the New York Daily News, the cancellation of House of Cards would result in the loss of thousands of jobs. Why should a camera-man or a craft services employee lose their jobs because of someone else’s misconduct?

When a figure involved with great masterpieces is revealed to have allegedly committed sexual violence, their work should not be what is shamed. A movie may star an actor or actress who has done horrible things, or the film could be produced or directed by a terrible person, but that person is not the only one involved in the project. The art will always outlast the character of the artist, and supporting great art means more than supporting one person involved.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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