Of every thousand people who suffer sexual assault in the United States only 230 go to the police. Of those mere complaints 46 lead to arrests. Hence only nine cases go to the prosecution and only five end up in a trial where the defendant is convicted. Not everyone is imprisoned.
The data of the National Network of Rape, Abuse and Incest of the USA (RAINN) are a fundamental starting point to understand why the decision last Monday of seven men and five women of a popular jury in New York of plead guilty to the producer Harvey weinstein of two of the five charges for sex crimes He was facing as a tectonic movement.
Weinstein’s particular case brings together many unique, particular elements, from the fame of the accused and his industry to media attention. But as the first judicial process of the #MeToo era, the idea extends that it can mark a turning point, especially because the jury has believed women with complex relationships with the defendant, with allegations in which there was no physical evidence and Only two versions faced. It has also done so in a process where the producer’s defense, led by lawyer Donna Rotunno, has made a brutal and misogynistic attack on the credibility of the victims.
Believe the victims
From a psychological perspective, and not only legal, Dr. Jennifer Freyd, a professor at the University of Oregon, analyzes the verdict as “a relief” but also as “very significant for survivors of sexual violence“.” Given our history of not making people responsible, that we have been held accountable to Weinstein is very important, “says the expert in a telephone interview, who identified a common strategy of abusers (DARVO for its acronym in English ): deny that the abuse occurred, attack the victim, lie and portray themselves as victims, reversing the roles of victim and aggressor, something they have done from Weinstein to Donald Trump or Supreme Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
“Until now the victims had the feeling that they would not be believed and that was one of the factors not to report. Another is to blame themselves, something that makes them less likely to tell other people what happened. But there is increasing awareness about sexual violence, “he explains.” Things are not black and white, it is not like being attacked by a stranger who appears from behind a bush. Many victims know the abuserThey are people who are important in their lives, with whom they have a relationship, sometimes of dependence, and they probably have all kinds of complicated feelings. Thats the reality”.
That same was explained to the jury during the process to Weinstein, the trauma expert psychologist Barbara Ziv, who also testified at the trial in which Bill Cosby was convicted. It was a central axis of the risky commitment of the New York prosecutor’s office. He ended up convincing. And as he wrote in ‘The Washington Post’ Monica Hesse, “the guilty verdict says that imperfect victims remain victims“.
“20 years ago nobody would have taken them seriously“Amber Keyser, author of the book ‘No more excuses: Dismantle the culture of rape’, says in another telephone interview.” We have lived with the idea, especially in ancient generations, that some behaviors of people like Weinstein or Kavanaugh were simply ‘men’s things’. For a while excuses have been made and sexual violence has been normalized It seemed that you couldn’t talk about it, sometimes you didn’t even notice it was there. But finally with the MeToo movement and because women are talking about their own experiences in an authentic and powerful way, we begin to question the idea that some things are normal, “he continues.” This is a huge progress, huge, and reinforced by A legal decision marks a turning point in this conversation. The system is still broken but this case encourages us to think that we can have a more complex understanding of sexual assault. “
Similar analyzes dominate since Monday. In ‘The New York Times’ Deborah Tuerkheimer, a lawyer who was a prosecutor specializing in domestic violence cases, has written that “the verdict sends the signal that social and legal barriers that have long denied justice to victims begin to fall“And in a column in CNN another former prosecutor, Caroline Polisi, has ratified that” the landscape in which police and prosecutors can investigate and prosecute violent sexual crimes has fundamentally changed now that there is proven evidence that jurors can convict even in cases without physical evidence or when the victims maintained contact with the accused after the assault. More victims will be encouraged to report the abuse, aware that although the road to justice will not be easy at least it will be a possibility. It’s much more than they had before. “
The beginning of a road
What happened with Weinstein is not the end of the road, but the beginning. And Dr. Freyd, for example, remembers that “he and the other prominent cases with Famous names have helped identify the problem of sexual harassment in the work environment but there is a lot of work to do in that area and, especially, in the abuse that happens in families and in childhood. We are making progress especially in the workplace but that is only part of the problem, “he says.
It is also the idea left in a statement to the ‘Times’ Tarana Burke, the activist who originally created the #MeToo label. For her the sentence is “fuel to keep motivated survivors and allies for the change “and the call is to” think about how great strategic movements are made that go beyond individual demolitions. “There is talk, as Keyser does, of the” need to have more and better sex education, more familiarization with pleasure and with the importance of female pleasure, thus more open dialogue about consent. ” We study how to continue fighting to extend the deadlines before they prescribe sexual crimes or temporary windows to file lawsuits. Broader legal definitions of, for example, sexual harassment, and stronger federal laws to protect against it are sought. Keyser also proposes “more restorative justice programs and look for ways to heal adjacent to the criminal system.”