The #MeToo movement was, above all, a collective “breaking of the silence” that shifted the longstanding balance of power on the question of sexual misconduct, particularly in the professional world.
Many have noted that what became a collective raising of (mostly female) voices may have required the accusations of a few Hollywood movie stars to launch the movement that, even just this week, continues to reverberate everywhere from the Vatican to France to Costa Rica.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis added his to the chorus of voices speaking out against sexual misconduct by acknowledging, for the first time, the sexual abuse (by members of the clergy) of women who are in many ways the epitome of silent servitude: Catholic nuns.
The remarks follow publication of a recent article in Women Church World, a Vatican magazine, alleging that Catholic clerics have sexually abused and even impregnated nuns, who in some cases were forced to have abortions. The abuse was hidden, again, by a wall of silence: Nuns kept quiet, reportedly, out of fear that they or their orders would face retaliation from the ruling male clergy.
That fear of exposure also took center stage Tuesday in Paris, where six women connected with France’s Green political party EELV gathered in a courtroom to detail years of accusations against former EELV party leader Denis Baupin.
Back then there was less #MeToo.
Among those providing testimony was a former spokeswoman for the party, Sandrine Rousseau, who testified that in 2011, Baupin pinned her against a wall and touched her breasts. As French daily Le Monde reported, the other accusers shared similar stories of feeling too isolated and intimidated, in the past, to go public.
“Back then there was less #MeToo,” said Rousseau, remembering the backlash faced by French writer Tristane Banon when she accused prominent politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her.
In Central America, in the meantime, a woman is speaking out against a particularly esteemed political figure: Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican leader Oscar Arias, who twice held the presidency (1986-1990, 2006-2010).
Activist and doctor Alexandra Arce von Herold told prosecutors on Monday that in December of 2014, Arias sexually assaulted her in his home, where she had gone to deliver some documents: “He grabbed me from behind and touched my breasts,” the Costa Rican daily La Nación quoted the accuser as saying. “I told him no, and [reminded him] that he was married. That was my no. It was the only thing I could think to say.” Arias, through a statement submitted by his lawyer, denies any wrongdoing, the New York Times reported yesterday.
Sexual violence did not begin or end with the accusations first launched 16 months ago against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Centuries of forced silence are not over yet either. Still, the #MeToo movement has already changed the world in ways that no Hollywood movie ever has.
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