2017 Marked a Sea Change in Attitudes Toward Sexual Misconduct

Doug Jones was a little speechless at first. Then he thanked the various voters who elected him the first Democratic senator from Alabama in 25 years.

“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than to divide us.” His stunning victory was a fallout from a barrage of sexual harassment allegations that shook the country in late 2017.

His Republican opponent, Roy Moore, campaigned while denying at least nine allegations of sexual misconduct, some involving women when they were teenagers. Accuser Beverly Young says she was terrified at the time.

“I thought he was going to rape me,” she said.

Despite an endorsement from President Donald Trump, and Moore’s insistence that the “allegations are completely false … malicious,” Moore lost.

​Opening the floodgates

By the end of 2017, more than 60 prominent men were suspended, fired or forced to resign from their highly visible jobs because of allegations of sexual harassment and even assault against women, some occurring years ago. More than 100 stand accused of sexual harassment or misconduct. The trend began in October when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, was exposed as an alleged serial predator of young actresses who wanted to be stars.

Louisette Geiss says her heart raced as he told her “he could get me a three-picture deal, but that I had to watch him masturbate.” By December, more than 80 women had accused Weinstein of sexual harassment.

He admitted, “I got to get help, guys,” as he left for an Arizona rehabilitation facility. He stayed for a week. His business, the Weinstein Company, co-founded with his brother, is in jeopardy, plagued by lawsuits from women who claim the company knew about and hid his harassment.

WATCH: Dozens Shamed in Sexual Harassment Charges in 2017

The Weinstein effect

The public accusations against Harvey Weinstein emboldened other women to tell their stories. Suddenly, other high-profile men began to fall in what would be known as the “Weinstein Effect.”

Melissa Silverstein writes the blog “Women and Hollywood.” She says the outpouring of accusations proves that women are “reacting that our rights are being rolled back and we are tired of it.”

The “Weinstein Effect” hit others in Hollywood, including House of Cards star Kevin Spacey, accused of sexual harassment of a teenaged boy. Netflix suspended its filming of the show’s last season, then announced it would resume without Spacey as the main character.

In other media, NBC fired its Today show host of 20 years, Matt Lauer, after accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior on the job. CBS suspended its morning anchor, Charlie Rose, for similar allegations.

Comedian Louis C.K. is accused by five women of sexual misconduct for actions including stripping and masturbating in front of them. Louisiana Celebrity Chef John Besh, who’s known for the country’s southern food trend, stepped down after several dozen women claimed harassment and that his restaurant atmosphere allowed it to thrive.

In music, Russell Simmons, co-founder of the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, and James Levine, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, face sexual assault allegations.

​More political fallout

Moore was not the only politician accused of improper behavior. A radio news anchor accused U.S. Senator Al Franken of groping her while she slept on a military plane headed home from a USO tour. Leeann Tweeden posted the photo as part of an essay she wrote about the 2006 incident. Tweeden also accused Franken of forcibly kissing her. 

“He just smashed his lips against my face,” she said in the news conference, “and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast.”

More complaints would come forward, and Franken announced in December he would step down: “I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.” Franken’s last day in office will be Jan. 2.

In late December, a group of Democratic senators used Franken’s resignation as a reason to demand President Donald Trump resign. They cited at least 15 women who have accused the president of improper conduct. Trump was elected U.S. president more than a year ago, despite the public accusations.

​#MeToo rally, Time award

The shift in attitudes against sexual harassment triggered a social media campaign. #MeToo became the rallying cry for women worldwide. Women posted the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to acknowledge publicly their experiences and to demonstrate the extent of the problem.

Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as its “Person of the Year” for 2017. The issue is dedicated to those who have accused powerful figures of sexual misconduct, calling them the “voices that launched a movement.”

A Time magazine survey shows that 82 percent think women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations.

By the end of 2017, the movement changed the nation’s mores, as men and women better understood the definition of sexual harassment and no longer ignored it.

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