MeToo strikes a hard blow on sexual harassment perps

Though late, the Movement gather momentum in New Zealand

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

The ‘MeToo Movement’ gained worldwide recognition in 2017, when the hashtag #MeToo went viral on social media.

The Movement shone the spotlight on sexual assault and harassment faced by women in various industries.

Platform to share

For a while, my Twitter feed was filled with the angst of women who had been sexually assaulted and harassed. Some of it was historical abuse.

Some women had neither been heard nor believed.

The Movement provides women an outlet to share, get support and justice and eventually change behaviours.

I have worked in the domestic violence prevention sector for most of my work life and yet, the magnitude of the issue that the MeToo Movement highlighted struck me too.

The Movement also highlighted the fact that while domestic and sexual violence can be just one horrific incident, they are also often part of a pattern of power and control.

Powerful and hopeful

The MeToo Movement is not actually about anything new. Most victims or survivors of both intimate partner violence and sexual violence are women and most perpetrators are men.

Women have been sexually assaulted and harassed for decades by men in positions of power. The reason why it is such a powerful Movement is because finally, women feel heard and believed.

And finally, powerful men are being held to account for their actions.

It is powerful because it gives us hope.

Cosby and Weinstein

The Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and other scandals associated with the MeToo Movement fill me with rage that men in positions of power continue to take advantage of (often) younger women who they know are unlikely to be believed.

However, they give me hope that such men may eventually be brought to justice.

Women often hesitate to report abuse because they know that their abuser, especially if he is powerful, is likely to go to extreme lengths to silence or discredit her.

Abusers do this to prevent others from believing their victims’ allegations.

Smokescreen obscures

Often, these men also portray themselves as upstanding individuals with powerful connections, political or otherwise, who are respected in their community.

None of this necessarily makes them innocent of the allegations – it just colours others’ perspectives and makes others more likely to believe him over the victim.

Silenced, the victim continues to live with the guilt, shame and anger that sexual abuse brings with it.

The MeToo Movement highlights that it is a similar story wherever you are in the world.

The New Zealand Scene

The MeToo Movement took a while to reach New Zealand.

MeTooNZ was launched in March 2018 by Broadcaster and Journalist Alison Mau and a group of senior journalists.

It was supported by publisher Stuff.

The investigation that they launched is a coordinated response that includes a ‘Triage System.’ It aims to support women to tell their stories, seek support, lay a police complaint if they choose to, hold their perpetrators to account and lead a change in sexual harassment practices in their industries.

Rigorous Process

In less than a week of launching #MeTooNZ, Mau was inundated with calls from hundreds of women wanting to tell their stories.

She notes that their process must be very rigorous, given New Zealand’s strong defamation laws. They will need corroboration from survivors, witnesses, other complainants, and will have to cross-check every detail of time and place.

They will also have legal assistance at every step.

Radio Tarana too

In May 2018, Radio Tarana joined Alison Mau and the team behind #MeTooNZ to provide women survivors from our Indian communities with an opportunity to have their voices heard too and to get the justice and change we deserve.

Family and sexual violence affect all our communities, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic background, educational level or profession.

None of us is immune and we need to ensure that we do all we can as a society to change the attitudes and structures that perpetuate it.

To quote Alison Mau, “Sexual misconduct has been one of the defining international issues of the last year, and it is important that New Zealanders have a voice too.”

We must ensure that all women in New Zealand, including those of us from ethnic minority communities, have a voice and that is heard.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan is a Member of Parliament on Labour List based in Maungakiekie, Auckland. She is a champion of social justice and actively participates in movements and events that uphold the rights of women and address their sufferings. She is known for her independent and strong thought, which she makes known without hesitation.

  1. Alison Mau haslaunched #MeTooNZ to help victims of sexual harassment (RNZ Photo)
  2. MeToo Movementgathered pace in India after Hindi actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekarof sexual abuse (Picture: thenewsminutes.com)
  3. PriyancaRadhakrishnan with Michael Wood, AnahilaKanongata’a Suisuiki (Papakura and Tamaki) and Raymond Huo at the MaungakiekieLabour Office (Picture from Facebook)
  4. Prime Jacinda Ardern with Ethnic CommunitiesMinister Jenny Salesa and Priyanca Radhakrishnan at Diwali 2018 in Auckland(Picture by Hemant Parikh, Radio Tarana)

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