Sexual Assault Discourse and the #MeToo Movement
Sexual assault is a public health crisis. Over one-third of women (36.3 percent) report experiences with sexual violence and 19.1 percent report experiences with rape or attempted rape (Center for Disease Control, 2017). The vast majority of survivors experience significant distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety (Van Dam, 2018). However, fewer than one-third of rapes are reported to the police and less than one percent of rapes and attempted rapes end with a felony conviction (Van Dam, 2018). This mini-cube will examine sexual assault discourse and the #MeToo movement through a multidisciplinary case study of the high profile conviction of Dr. Larry Nassar at Michigan State University. Through an examination of testimony, victim statements, news articles, social media reactions and comparative historical analyses of earlier cases, we consider from perspectives of philosophy, public health, sociology, and law how these discourses and narratives are constructed and represented. The cube will examine how #MeToo is calling into play hermeneutical injustice, or an injustice of meaning and interpretation. That is, recent efforts to “believe” women trade upon traditional notions of credibility and authority about which women have an inalienable right to be believed. The cube also will explore the ways in which changing public discourse on sexual assault and harassment are influencing gender consciousness, relationships between men and women, the view that women are a monolithic category, and the impact of gender-based violence on individual and workplace health. Some of the questions we plan to examine include: How are certain trauma narratives privileged and others are discounted? Are historically marginalized voices, such as those of trans persons and women of color, being included in these new public discourses? and What factors work in favor of, and against, survivors being “believed.” Ultimately, we hope to shed light on discourses about rape culture, gender based violence and the public health consequences of this social movement.