#MeToo in the Age of Coronavirus

Written by John Winer

The COVID-19 global crisis has completely changed the way we live our daily lives. As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise and businesses, schools, and public gathering spaces across the country remain closed, Americans continue to live life in quarantine indefinitely. Daily life as we know it has changed and life has become all about the coronavirus. As the coverage continues, certain topics are put on the back burner, such as the #MeToo movement, but it’s important to remember that many out there are still struggling, and are finding it hard to cope during this difficult time.

The same month the nation took unprecedented actions to combat the coronavirus, #MeToo activists claimed victory after Harvey Weinstein received a 23-year prison sentence, in a case that fueled the global #MeToo movement and encouraged women to speak out against sexual abuse. More than 100 women, including famous actresses, accused the former movie mogul of sexual misconduct dating back decades, fueling the movement against sexual abuse and harassment. Weeks after his conviction, Weinstein tested positive for the coronavirus at a state prison in New York while serving his sentence. After recovering, Reuters reported that he was charged with a third sexual assault case in Los Angeles.

Coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has also overshadowed the 2020 presidential campaign, which might be good news for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who was recently accused of sexual assault by a former staffer. In interviews with The Associated Press, the staffer alleged the assault occurred in 1993 in a Capitol Hill office building. A recent New York Times article detailed the commitment the Democratic party expressed in believing and supporting women who come forward as sexual assault survivors after the #MeToo movement gained momentum and questioned if Democrats should regard the presidential nominee as a sexual predator for the sake of consistency.

The pandemic is also presenting barriers to conduct investigations of sexual misconduct on college campuses. A report by the HuffPost states that Title IX processes are being delayed across the country, leaving many survivors wondering if they can achieve justice during the pandemic. Some colleges are finding it impossible to hold in-person hearings with campus closures and shelter-in-place orders issued by state governments. While these are unprecedented times, schools need to be transparent and need to prioritize giving survivors as much autonomy in the Title IX process as possible.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also caused a spike in domestic violence due to the current stay at home orders issued. According to a recent report released by NBC News, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. saw domestic violence cases rise by 35% in recent weeks. Experts claim that as city and state leaders ordered people to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, domestic abuse became more prevalent. Many victims’ rights advocates warned that there would be a spike in abuse as schools shut down and people lost their jobs.

Although our main focus should be on keeping ourselves safe and healthy during these unprecedented times, it’s important to remember that survivors of sexual assault are also experiencing the deep impact of it all. Those who were seeking support are now facing challenges getting the therapy they need, and advocates are fighting to hold federal and state policymakers accountable to make sure everything is being done to help survivors during this time.