Sexual misconduct allegations rock the media

Caitlyn Grcich, Editor-in-Chief

In recent weeks, sexual misconduct allegations have been brought to light from all sides of the spectrum. From allegations that range from inappropriate banter to even rape, it’s been difficult to see past the constant barrage of new allegations which seem to be increasing on a daily basis.

On October 5th, producer and co-founder of the Weinstein company, Harvey Weinstein was accused of raping three women, as well as multiple sexual assault and harassment accusations from other women. Since the unveiling of Weinstein’s supposed actions, multiple women and men have stepped forward, accusing other celebrities, politicians, and media moguls of heinous actions.

Each day there appears another sexual misconduct allegation, and it has left many wondering what to do in such a situation where they experience sexual misconduct, especially as high schools and colleges all over the country brace for impact of fallout. Multiple teachers around the country have been placed on leave or fired for sexual misconduct with either students or fellow employees, as well as students being caught in the middle of the crossfire.

For many, this has incited campaigns and activists to speak out and speak up to give guidance for those caught in such a situation. One such example is a trending theme on social media, #MeToo, in which survivors of sexual assault or misconduct share their stories in the hope of inspiring others to speak out via social media, going even as far as the creator of the hashtag to be named as a Time Magazine’s Person(s) of The Year, based on silence-breakers this year across all aspects.

For Social Studies teacher Mr. Ryan Julian, he believes that such an influx in allegations has been rising, but it has not been sudden, saying, “In my opinion this is not sudden. But, this is just the next step in the women’s movement. Throughout the 20th century women have been becoming more equal in all facets of American society. 1900’s-1930’s (voting) 1960’s (sexual) 1970’s and 1980’s (joining workforce) 1990 and 2000’s (women gain workplace positions of power) and today we are seeing women no longer have to deal with men abusing their power and status. I believe women for a long time dealt with some of this inappropriate behaviors to gain prominence in the workforce, but now women are joining together to say enough is enough. Genders are becoming more equal over the last 100 years and this is just another step in the process. Men need to realize this, especially men from older generations. This is something that is not just happening today, but it has been in the works for decades”.

Despite the fact that for many of these cases the statute of limitations has run out due to being reported so late, it appears to many that justice is still being served by way of public scrutiny, which in turn seems to be a deterrent for others. Many of those who have seen the impact of these sexual allegations when they do come to light have decided to take things into their own hands and divulge said information on their own, which actually seems to help their case. According to Julian, “The court of public opinion is taking the lead on these issues and so it should. Many of these allegation are beyond the statute of limitations and the only ramifications for these actions are through the public’s lense”.

While it may seem that this issue is out of touch for many, it can be just around the corner when it comes to high school and soon-to-be college-aged students, and such a risk as this has become even more risky due to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reversing an Obama-era policy that changed the way sexual assault and misconduct on campuses was handled. According to an article by The New York Times, a “portion of the Obama-era guidelines had demanded colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault, a verdict that can lead to discipline and even expulsion. On Friday [September 22], the Education Department said colleges were free to abandon that standard and raise it to a higher standard known as “clear and convincing evidence”.

Despite the fact that there has been changes to laws, that is not to say that cases of sexual assault and misconduct on campuses will go without punishment. In a time where lines between innapropriate banter and unwanted sexual advances appears to blur together, universities have taken it upon themselves to offer a way to make those involved in such incidents see their actions a little more clearly.

Rules such as Title IX are put in place to protect those who speak out on sexual assault by offering guidelines and terms which help categorize the actions. According to MIT’s Title IX website, “Due to the sensitive and sometimes violent nature of incidents involving sexual misconduct, the following definitions are provided for informational use by students and for guidance in the investigation and processing of alleged violations. It is possible that a particular action may constitute sexual misconduct even if not specifically mentioned in these examples”.