The #MeToo movement has been crucial in raising the profile of sexual harassment and violence through the voices of women from Hollywood to Congress, yet we have heard less about the experiences of women from other socioeconomic sectors – poor women, women of color, immigrant women. The U.S. does have limited policies in place to protect some immigrant victims of sexual violence, but those systems need to be more accessible and to be made consistent across jurisdictions.
As Minnesota prepared to host the Super Bowl, increased attention was given to the issue of sex trafficking. In a Civios podcast, Lauren Martin, director of research at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) and affiliate faculty member of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, addressed the way that Minnesota state policy and research impacts federal policy related to sex trafficking and commercial sex.
On October 5, 2017, the New York Times revealed that Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, paid eight settlements in response to allegations of sexual harassment, dating back to 1990. The article detailed a behavioral pattern in which Weinstein lured women into meeting with him on the pretense of work and then appeared in various states of undress, demanded a massage, touched women without consent, or asked them to watch him shower. Weinstein’s conduct was condemned, but contextual questions soon emerged: who helped him create opportunities to harass and assault women, and who refused to see the harassment and hear victims’ complaints? Many people privately knew about Weinstein’s behavior. His sexual violence did not become public, however, due to the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in settlements with victims. Purportedly part of the solution to harassment (i.e., legal settlement), NDAs can facilitate harassment by keeping sexual violence secret and victims silent.
Those Title IX guidelines are under fire from the Trump administration, however. Spearheading this effort is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who last Thursday gave a speech at George Mason University where she called for a dramatic restructuring of the program, saying it has “failed many students.” After DeVos’ speech on Thursday, some commentators applauded the Department of Education’s new direction. Andrew Miltenberg, a defense attorney for many students who have been defendants in Title IX proceedings, said, “Title IX was meant to be a tool for fairness, not a means for colleges and universities to micromanage students’ sex lives.” To characterize the critically important provision of resources and responses to sexual assault survivors on campus through Title IX as universities “micromanaging student sex lives” is an example of how the rhetoric of the Trump administration has obscured acts of violence and distorted Obama-era policies, minimizing sexual violence and the impact it has on survivors.
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