The Harvey Weinstein effect

Sexual assault has been one of the most heated topics of 2017. Since the initial allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in October, a stream, or rather a torrent, of allegations of sexual misconduct have been leveled at many other significant figures in entertainment, politics, and journalism, including: Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and even Minnesota senator Al Franken, who has now said that he intends to resign from his position (MinnPost). The phenomenon has been dubbed, “The Harvey Weinstein effect” as reported by USA Today.

The allegations have ranged in severity from rape, to sexual assault or abuse, to sexual misconduct, and the reactions to these allegations have been mixed, but dramatic, to say the least. According to a USA Today article, many of the accused have been fired or resigned from their jobs or projects (Weinstein, Spacey, Lauer), more have apologized (C.K., Franken, George H.W. Bush) or denied the allegations (Roy Moore), or a combination of the three.

Republican politician Roy Moore’s case has been particularly controversial as he was, when the allegations were made, running in a Senate election (ABC News). He was accused by eight women, according to a Washington Post article, two of which were 14, below the Alabama age of consent of 16, when they claim the misconduct occurred. Moore specifically denied the allegations of two of his accusers and continued to run despite them, and requests from Democrat and Republican senators, such as John McCain, who said on the Senate Government website, “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” and he should resign.

These allegations, and their outcomes, are enough to give anyone pause. Almost everyone opposes sexual abuse in any form, but it can sometimes be hard to tell whether an allegation is valid, and, if so, how specifically to respond; especially when the allegations are being made at such an alarming rate. This question is of particular importance when it comes to public servants such as Roy Moore or even Donald Trump, who been accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct by 15 different women (CNN Politics).

The Alabama Senate elections results were officially released by The New York Times on Thursday, December 14. Roy Moore lost by a narrow margin to Doug Jones, 49.9% to 48.4%, with the rest of the votes being write-ins. The loss is still surprising, however, as Doug Jones was considered an outsider and a long shot in Alabama, a state which hadn’t had a Democratic senator in 20 years, before eight women came out against Moore.

TIME Magazine has awarded “The Silence Breakers” (those who came out against sexual abusers), the distinction of “People of the Year.” Without a doubt, the unraveling of the Harvey Weinstein effect will come to be seen as a defining event of our contemporary epoch in later years.

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