Why legal experts say #MeToo is more than just a movement
According to the most recent data on sexual assaults, one in every four women in North America will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
“It’s very important from a police perspective to make sure we have those reports and on file, it helps make sure that the survivor is safe and maintains their safety as well as the rest of the general public,” Saskatoon Police Service spokesperson Kelsie Fraser said.
Since 2017 however, the #MeToo Movement has made social media a comfortable forum for victims to come forward and speak out against sexual assault.
In many cases, victims are opting to go online as part of a demonstration to support survivors and end sexual violence as opposed to going to police.
According to experts, this is the reason alone that #MeToo is more than just a movement.
“I think women are finding tremendous solidarity in voicing what happened to them in a context in which other women are saying wait a minute – exactly the same thing or something very similar has happened to me,” Janine Benedet, a law professor with the Peter A. Allard School of Law, said.
“That’s encouraging in context in which many of these behavior have been shrouded in silence and there’s a real attempt to distance women from each other.”
For every 100 sexual assaults in Canada, it’s estimated only six are ever reported to police. It is unclear of those how many actually go to court.
“Not all allegations of sexual assault can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Brent Little, a criminal defence lawyer with Little & Company, said.
“That doesn’t mean that it didn’t occur, right, so the criminal defence system is only part of what society has to face.”
The #MeToo Movement is now a way outside of the legal system, said Little, for victims to effect positive change.
“The more these behaviours are ostracized the less likely they are to be acceptable and more change can be effected in society.”
Some would argue that the movement goes too far, there is a rush to judgement when it comes to the named accused who is ultimately denied the right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Both legal experts say they disagree entirely and that victims have been blamed for long enough.
“To be accused in social media, although incredibly uncomfortable and awful for somebody, is not equivalent to being charged or accused of something in a criminal court,” Little said.
That’s not to say participating in the #MeToo Movement isn’t without risk, said Benedet, who has been witness to women who have been sued or lawsuits threatened.
“It’s interesting to me that it’s in this context in particular that we have visceral reaction that there is unfairness, I mean we’ve had decades and decades of this happening to women and nobody believing them.”
“Sexual violence has ruined women’s lives for a very long and I think we need to not forget that.”
Police encourage all survivors to file a report; a victim can ask that charges not be laid but at least the evidence and documentation of the assault will be there if they ever change their mind.
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