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Can the #MeToo Movement Have an Impact on Your Sexual Assault Claim?

The #MeToo movement, as it’s known today, doesn’t merely seek to raise awareness of sexual assault and help its victims stand up for themselves: It also seeks to enforce offender accountability and hold them fully responsible for the ramifications of their actions.

Since the movement’s popularization in 2017, several notable and high-profile individuals, like Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose, and Kevin Spacey, have been accused of sexual assault. The accusations against Bill Cosby landed him in prison; those against Charlie Rose got him fired; and Kevin Spacey recently began the court hearings for his allegations in London.

Although the impact of the movement on the global stage has been obvious, how does the #MeToo movement play a role in the everyday workplace, household, and gathering? What effects could it have on a sexual assault claim?

Our sexual assault attorneys in San Diego take a closer look.

Defining the #MeToo Movement: From MySpace to Hollywood

The #MeToo movement started on MySpace in 2006, when creator Tarana Burke started using the phrase “me too” to spread awareness and empathy toward victims of sexual assault. A victim of sexual assault herself, “empowerment through empathy” was Burke’s goal.

In 2017, the movement was revived, popularized, and slightly edited: Actress Alyssa Milano turned “Me too” into #MeToo after several high-profile women working in Hollywood started speaking up about sexual allegations against well-known film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Since the events of 2017, more women have spoken up about their own sexual assault experiences and allegations. Today, you could argue that the #MeToo movement has dramatically affected the lens through which society views sexual assault.

Breaking Down Sexual Assault Cases

To fully understand the impact that the #MeToo movement has on sexual assault cases, a basic understanding of how sexual assault cases work and the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment must be established.

Sexual Assault vs Sexual Harassment

The specific legal definitions of sexual assault and sexual harassment differ from state to state, but generally speaking:

  • Sexual assault involves the perpetrator making unwanted sexual advances on the victim, including inappropriate touching, groping, and rape.
  • Sexual harassment largelyinvolves workplace discrimination and harassmentdue to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For example, it is sexual harassment if your boss threatens to fire you if you don’t give them a sexual favor.

It’s important to understand that all instances of sexual assault are simultaneously sexual harassment. Yet, not all instances of sexual harassment may be severe enough to be labeled as sexual assault.

Sexual harassment is a broader term that can refer to several different types of behaviors: Discriminatory remarks towards someone’s gender, for instance, can be considered sexual harassment but not sexual assault.

The Makings of a Sexual Assault Case

The #MeToo movement primarily seeks to enforce accountability on those responsible for sexual harassment in all its forms, including and especially sexual assault. While the movement’s general focus is on women whom men have sexually harassed, the movement also recognizes the inverse.

A sexual assault claim arises when an accuser alleges that someone made inappropriate, non-consensual sexual advances. (Remember that all instances of sexual assault are sexual harassment, but not all instances of sexual harassment will be sexual assault.)

Most states, including California, impose a statute of limitations on sexual assault crimes. Be sure to speak with an attorney to identify any statute of limitations that may apply to your case.

Most sexual assault cases start with the victim reporting the crime to the police, who will then undergo an investigation into the alleged events. The victim may enlist the help of a sexual assault attorney to build their case against the perpetrator.

Criminal vs Civil Sexual Assault

Sexual assault and sexual harassment can lead to both a civil lawsuit and criminal charges. Criminal charges are brought by the state against the defendant and the aim is punishment via jail or prison time. A civil lawsuit is brought by the plaintiff and the aim is to obtain monetary compensation for the wrongful conduct. Criminal cases must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” vs “preponderance of the evidence” in a civil case.

#MeToo’s Potential Effects on Sexual Assault Cases

The court of public opinion tends to have a noticeable effect on the court of law. Could the events of the #MeToo movement and its associated sexual assault crimes create unfair or unjust bias in a sexual assault case? Could it loosen how sexual harassment is defined and tighten the legal margin of error?

Perhaps the opposite may also be true: The popularization of the #MeToo movement may dramatically reduce the number of sexual harassment and assault crimes committed in the workplace, thanks to a newfound sense of extreme awareness that the movement has created.

Ultimately, however, a sexual assault case comes down to investigating the facts.

Let HHJ Trial Attorneys in San Diego Help You With Your Sexual Assault Case

Winning your San Diego sexual assault case begins and ends with hiring experienced, trustworthy legal help. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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