The #MeToo movement started out as a way for survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual bullying to bond and share their stories. MeToo became a global movement across all social media platforms which sparked significant social and legal changes.
Roughly 60 million American employers tucked clauses into their contracts to force employees to settle any allegations of sexual misconduct in private arbitration proceedings instead of in court. In February 2022, the United States Congress passed House Resolution 4445, or the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Harassment Act of 2021.”
The bill would modify the Federal Arbitration Act to ban companies from forcing employees who allege sexual assault or harassment to settle their claims with an arbiter without the option of filing a lawsuit𑁋 undoubtedly being a significant reform in the workplace. If President Joe Biden passes the bill, it would prohibit enforcement of contract provisions that mandate their party arbitration of workplace sexual misconduct claims, regardless of when the alleged act occurred.
The legislation guarantees people who experience sexual misconduct at work can seek recourse in court. Approving the bill would be a milestone in the #MeToo movement.
A Little Background on the #MeToo Movement
Tarana Burke first used the phrase “Me Too” in 2006 to raise awareness for women who were abused. Eleven years later, the saying gained global recognition after a viral tweet by Alyssa Milano, an actress, who accused Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault. Following Milano’s accusation, some of the most powerful people in entertainment, sports, and politics were exposed for sexually harassing or assaulting others.
Today, the movement focuses on perpetrator accountability and strategies to sustain long-term, systemic change so that one day no one ever has to say “me too” again. The silence surrounding sexual harassment and assault is breaking because people are having open discussions on the issues as well as becoming more passionate about seeing something done.
The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault Act represents a key improvement to women’s workplace rights; however, it fails to address concerns about public accountability and corporate bias in arbitration for other consumer and work-related claims like gender bias. There is so much more to be accomplished and addressed before sexual misconduct becomes an issue of the past, but passing this bill is a step in the right direction.
Sexual Assault on a Personal Level
As someone who has experienced this issue on numerous occasions, it hits close to home. I was 10 years old the first time I faced something regarding sexual misconduct. I don’t remember much except sitting in my elementary school talking to a police officer about what happened to my classmates on the school bus. Shortly after, my bus driver was fired.
Years went by and I encountered the second incident of sexual misconduct in my life that I can recall. I was a senior in high school, interning at a local radio station. After my internship and high school career ended, I was offered a chance to work part-time at a bigger radio station in the area. However, it was too good to be true.
I met with the man offering me the position and he never followed up with me. Instead, I received snapchats with sexually explicit content and never heard back about the job. With the help of a good friend of mine at the time, I got the courage to report the man to his boss and asked to be seriously considered for the position. I never heard anything back. Someone else close to me told me that’s “what I get” for trying…
Moving past those two incidents, I began my college career. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I had my third experience and honestly it is still difficult for me to disclose the details of what happened. However, I will disclose the things that were said to me when I finally faced the situation.
He told me sorry for the misunderstanding, but he was not sorry for his actions. He said that if I took this to the authorities it would be a “shit show” for me. He told me what happened was on both of us. I never did report what happened, but no matter how many times I showered I didn’t feel clean. No matter how many of my friends and family were there to support me, I always felt alone.
That’s the thing about sexual violence, in college especially. You want to pretend it didn’t happen or make excuses as to why you are to blame. You are too busy to process what actually happened.
The Me Too movement has a survivor healing series that consists of virtual sessions led by healing practitioners, focused on introducing tools and practices that can help navigate crisis and trauma as you begin to rebuild a sense of safety, joy, and healing. Survivors are resilient and brave.
The series is meant to be an opportunity to add to the skills and tools you already have and use every day to navigate your own personal triggers. Survivors can share their stories as a tool of empowerment, learn how to navigate shame and guilt, and move on in their own unique healing journeys.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to receive confidential support from a trained staff member at a local RAINN affiliate.
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