People attend a protest as a part of the #MeToo movement on the International Women's Day in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KIM HONG-JI)
Just over a year ago, a series of news articles rocked the US entertainment world. After producer Harvey Weinstein was accused in The New York Times and The New Yorker of raping and assaulting dozens of women, the accusations against other prominent figures came hard and fast.
Over the next months, what became known as the #MeToo movement brought to light horrific patterns of behavior from dozens of famous men, including Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Brett Ratner, Mario Batali, Al Franken, Louis C.K. and many more.
And the effect was felt significantly in Israel as well. Within a month of the bombshell accusations against Weinstein, several women spoke out about abuse by Keshet Media president Alex Gilady, who then resigned from the company. In the next few weeks, radio hosts Natan Zahavi and Gabi Gazit were both accused of assault and harassment by multiple women. Zahavi denied the claims and took a short break from his show, but currently still hosts a program on 103FM. Gazit took a break from his 103FM radio show and never returned to the airwaves.
While the October 2017 revelations against Weinstein were a turning point, they were far from the first shots fired in the battle against persistent and prevalent sexual harassment and assault. Months earlier, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was fired after various sexual harassment lawsuits were made public. More than a dozen criminal and civil lawsuits were filed against comedian Bill Cosby beginning in 2014, after dozens of rape accusations.
In Israel, too, accusations of sexual assault against powerful men did not just begin last year. In 2015, minister Silvan Shalom ended a decades-long political career after close to a dozen women accused him of assault and harassment. That same year, MK Yinon Magal also resigned after multiple allegations. Journalist Ari Shavit was ostracized
after multiple accusations of harassment came out in 2016. And it is impossible to ignore the incredible watershed moment in 2007, when sitting Israeli president Moshe Katsav was accused of rape and tried, convicted and imprisoned.
But there’s no denying that a real movement was set off last October. Women around the globe began to feel emboldened by others speaking out, and women who had kept quiet for decades finally felt that telling their stories could have a real impact. At times – as a series of powerful men faced allegation after allegation – it felt like a sea change, like the beginning of a new era.
But it would be naive to think that the work of the movement is over. And it would be demonstrably wrong to believe that sexual predators have been purged from the workplace.
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EVEN AMID the wave of women speaking up after years of silence, many more continue to stay quiet. Many don’t want to relive the pain of the worst moments of their life, or be subject to the personal attacks that often accompany such complaints.
In the United States, it was just a month ago that CBS chairman Les Moonves stepped down after multiple accusations of assault. Moonves had earlier voiced support for the #MeToo movement, and helped found a commission to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.
In Israel, a movement inspired by the powerful testimony last month of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has made waves just this week. After Ford testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
had assaulted her more than 30 years ago, she faced numerous attacks on her credibility. Angered by those questioning why Ford had remained silent for so many years, many women began tweeting with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
In Israel, the Hebrew hashtag inspired journalist Hannah Kim to tell her story about a prominent journalist who assaulted her several decades ago. This week, it was revealed that the journalist was veteran reporter and TV host Dan Margalit. Since Haaretz
named Margalit on Wednesday, at least seven other women have reported assault and harassment by Margalit.
When Weinstein and then Rose and then Lauer were ousted, these eight women remained silent. When Alex Gilady stepped down, these eight women said nothing. When Moonves was forced to resign, Margalit remained untainted. It takes courage to speak up. It takes strength to go public with such an allegation. And it often requires the support of hearing that you were not alone – that other women had the same experience you did.
No woman should ever be forced into speaking about her own sexual assault and harassment. And many would rather never have to relive these painful moments, nor be subject to the name-calling and shaming that often comes after they speak up.
Make no mistake. Predatory men in both Israel and the US remain in positions of power today. Army Radio reporter Hadas Shtaif – who first reported about Zahavi – wrote on Thursday that Margalit is far from the last Israeli sexual abuser in the media.
“I have in my hands additional and painful testimonies,” she wrote. “Many of the abusers are already old, some are sick, some are no longer working in the media... all the allegations are from around 30 years ago. The affected women, who remember every minute, say they do not forget and they do not forgive. But it is just those reasons that they have kept quiet for all these years, and even now they are not interested in speaking.”
The #MeToo movement has been and remains a hopeful turning point for women worldwide. But it is just a beginning. There is no statute of limitations on pain. It would be sadly naive to believe that there aren’t dozens if not hundreds more men whose crimes and abuse have yet to be revealed.
The past year has been an incredible one for empowerment and accountability. The next year should be even greater.
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