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Sunday, December 10, 2017

The “Silence Breakers” #Metoo


Time magazine is featuring “silence breakers,” a group the magazine identified with some familiar faces behind the #MeToo movement and at least one that is obscured, as 2017’s Person of the Year. 

The focus is on those who triggered a national outcry over sexual harassment.
“This is the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women, and some men, who came forward to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said when making the reveal. “The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to, a hospital worker in the middle of the country who shared her story with us and some others but doesn’t feel like she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.”
Here are a few of the people included:
Tarana Burke: Burke, an activist, started the  more than 10 years ago to help young women, “particularly young women of color from low wealth communities,” who have been sexually abused, assaulted, exploited or harassed. 
Susan Fowler: The former Uber engineer took a big risk last February when she went public with her story of mistreatment at ride-hailing company Uber. In a blog post, Fowler said she showed screenshots of chat messages in which her direct supervisor “was trying to get me to have sex with him” to human resources. The response to her post shifted the balance of power in male-dominated Silicon Valley. 
More:
Sara Gelser: Oregon state senator Sara Gelser detailed in a formal complaint filed in November a years-long pattern of unwanted touching and sexual harassment by Sen. Jeff Kruse and indicated that at least 15 women have similar experiences. The statehouse launched an investigation and relieved Kruse of his committee assignments. 
More:
Adama Iwu: The a lobbyist for Visa, who said she was groped in front of colleagues, organized an open letter signed by 147 women to call out sexual harassment in California’s state politics. The letter launched a state-senate investigation. 
Ashley Judd: In October, Judd went public about how Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed her. In one situation in 1997, she said Weinstein invited her to a hotel room, greeted her wearing a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or if she would watch him shower. Her claims against the Hollywood mogul helped set off an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations.
More:
Blaise Godbe Lipman: The former actor-turned-filmmaker accused his former agent Tyler Grasham of sexually assaulting him when he was 18. Grasham was fired and is being investigated by police. 
Rose McGowan: The Charmed actress reached a previously undisclosed settlement with Weinstein in 2007 after an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival, the Times reported in early October. In 2016, she tweeted that she was raped by a studio head in 2007, but didn’t identify Weinstein at the time. 
More:
Alyssa Milano: On Oct. 15, Milano tweeted “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The response was immense, an outpouring of personal and emotional experiences from people around the world.
Sandra Pezqueda: Pezqueda, a former dish-washer, filed a lawsuit against her supervisor at a luxury resort in South California for sexual harassment lasting months, according to Time. He then changed her schedule and cut her hours, Time reports.
“Someone who is in the limelight is able to speak out more easily than people who are poor. The reality of being a woman is the same — the difference if the risk each woman must take,” she told the magazine.
Taylor Swift: Swift came forward about a 2013 encounter, saying a Denver DJ groped her during a meet-and-greet. During a legal battle between the DJ David Mueller and Swift, Swift’s former security guard Greg Dent, who was present during the encounter said Mueller’s “hand went under her skirt.” In August, a judge threw out the lawsuit filed against Swift by Mueller, who claimed Swift was personally responsible for his firing.
More:
A woman whose face is obscured: Time featured a woman who’s face is not in the cover photo to represent those who haven’t yet come forward.


A Nottinghamshire-born campaigner and charity worker has received global recognition for her role in uncovering a culture of sexual violence against women in politics.
Co-Operative Party member and women’s rights activist Bex Bailey, who attended Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford, has been included in a major feature in world-renowned news magazine Time after blowing the whistle about a sexual assault against her at a Labour party event.
Ms Bailey rose to sudden prominence in October after claiming she had been raped by a senior Labour official in 2011. She also said that at the time she had raised the incident within the party but was discouraged from taking the matter further.
She has been included in Time’s Person of the Year feature, as one of the ‘Silence Breakers’ who have come forward in 2017, often in the face of severe pressure and personal risk, to uncover incidents sexual assaults and inappropriate behaviour against them.
Among the women and men featured in the Person of the Year list are actor Rose McGowan, one of the first women to publicly make an allegation against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and Alyssa Milano, who was instrumental in starting the #MeToo social media hashtag, which provides a space for victims of sexual assault to share stories of their own experiences.
Writing in the Guardian today [Thursday 7 December] Ms Bailey welcomed the recognition but said that society has “only really scratched the surface” when it comes to tackling misogyny and sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment is something that happens at every level of every political party – and parties aren’t dealing with it in a way that actually tackles the issue or works for victims,” she wrote. “It’s great that women are finally being heard, but now we need action. Across all industries, we need comprehensive culture change backed up by independent reporting processes.”
Details of Ms Bailey’s alleged ordeal emerged amid a series of allegations of misconduct and sexual attacks within Westminster, in the US political system and large parts of the entertainment industry.


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Time magazine named the Silence Breakers, women who had spoken out about sexual harassment, as Person of the Year. 
Six women did more than talk: They put their names on what they hope will become a class-action lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, his companies and the people their lawyers describe as part of a larger criminal enterprise.
Certifying a class action, much less one that describes prominent men such as New York Knicks owner James Dolan and lawyer David Boies as part of an organized criminal effort, can be complicated. But as more details about Weinstein’s behaviour emerge — most recently in a report from the New York Times entitled Weinstein’s Complicity Machine — the more this legal argument feels like a potent metaphorical description of the people who facilitated and concealed Weinstein’s decades of depredation. Weinstein’s ability to carry off an astonishing list of crimes depended on the participation of a disturbing number of other people.
Wednesday’s lawsuit was filed by a team of attorneys including Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Cris Armenta of the Armenta Law Firm. The six women who put their names on the suit are Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller and Nannette Klatt. Klatt was the original Jane Doe in a version of this lawsuit filed in California earlier this year; she is now coming forward under her own name.
The horrible power of repetition doesn’t dull the impact of Klatt’s story. In the suit, she says Weinstein asked her to meet with him in his private office to read a script with him. But just after Weinstein told Klatt she’d been cast, Klatt says he "told her he ‘just needed one more thing from you.’... Weinstein told Klatt that the role required him to review and approve of her breasts."
When she repeatedly refused, Klatt says, Weinstein ushered her into a dark stairwell where the door locked behind her. When a maintenance worker on another floor finally heard her cries for help, the lawsuit says "the worker immediately asked Klatt if she was coming from Weinstein’s floor."
That maintenance worker is a useful character in the ugly saga of Harvey Weinstein: there are people who knew that Weinstein behaved badly, but they were powerless to do more than to issue warnings, affirm the women who confided in them and unlock stairwell doors.
According to the lawsuit filed, the actor Rufus Sewell said to actress Zoe Brock, "Don’t tell me. You’ve been Weinsteined?" after she called him to report a terrifying encounter with the producer, and "warned Brock not to go to sleep (in a hotel room) because Weinstein would be back."
Men like Sewell and that maintenance worker may not have been able to bring Weinstein down. But at least they did the decent thing within the constraints of a flawed system.
The lawsuit filed provides an intellectual framework for understanding the behaviour of another category of people in Weinstein’s orbit. Its blunt language lays bare how the whole operation functioned, from the companies that tolerated Weinstein’s conduct "so that they could continue to benefit from their lucrative collaborations"; the intelligence firms that "destroyed or concealed evidence" and compiled information on Weinstein’s accusers "to extort those individuals’ silence"; the Weinstein associates and journalists who the lawsuit says formed an alliance to spy on Weinstein’s accusers and intimidate them; and the lawyers who hired the firms, worked out settlements and crafted contracts
At the top of the pyramid are "The Weinstein Participants," who "determined the members of the Weinstein Sexual Enterprise and assigned each member of the enterprise a task or tasks to fulfil the common purpose of using false pretences to prevent the publication or reporting of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and to destroy evidence."
In other words, reportedly Weinstein was the boss, and he had a highly organized hierarchy of underbosses, caporegimes, soldiers and associates working under him.
Dismantling the culture that made Weinstein is a vital, but nebulous, task. Dismantling the specific organization that empowered, enabled and protected an accused sexual predator and punishing everyone involved is a more concrete undertaking.
Hollywood will have to complete that first assignment itself, in a critical test of the industry’s values and capacities.
The women who stepped forward, and their lawyers, have taken an important step toward tackling the second.

And in the process, they’ve helped clarify that the entertainment industry needs to face up not just to flawed norms but to what appears to be monstrous conspiracies.

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