by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder
I've been an activist arguably as long as I've lived and been aware of the need to exercise virtue over vice. I co-founded HEAL in 2002 at the University of Washington. Through my years as an activist and advocate to stop institutionalized abuse, I've learned that to be effective a movement must be solution-based. Raising awareness about atrocities is not enough and does not result in solving problems. We must, therefore, as activists, be willing to provide a solution or recommend a feasible and reasonable one based on empirical data with virtuous change to vicious circumstances being our end regardless of cause or issue. In the United States, we can present solutions through private enterprise or public policy reform suggestions depending on best course for particular issue or cause.
With the #MeToo movement, reporting crimes of harassment, rape, assault, battery, or the like is the number one and primary legal remedy available for justice. This must be done in a timely manner so prosecution remains likely to succeed. In the event there is not enough evidence for a conviction meeting the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, then victims in such a situation may wish to join a support group or file a civil suit if there is enough evidence that it meets the civil standard of being a preponderance of evidence. If there is not enough evidence to meet either the civil or criminal standard, one who makes such allegations against an individual may find themselves legally liable if unable to support their public statements to the satisfaction of the courts.
Depending on jurisdiction, and in New York specifically, you can press criminal charges under various statutes for the following: any unwanted forcible touching for personal gratification or to degrade or abuse the victim regardless of whether over or under clothes (TSA is guilty), any other unwanted physical contact such as pushing or hitting, physically threatening or menacing without making contact but placing one in fear of such and must involve threatening body language and be more than verbal, and unlawful imprisonment even if only briefly prevented from freedom of movement (as in blocking a door and not letting one leave). So, if you've been a victim of such activity in the workplace or elsewhere, please report it to law enforcement immediately and press charges. Doing so in a timely fashion is your best chance at justice.
Now, the issue may be with getting more funding for particular law enforcement units so they can better investigate and more quickly solve crime. You'll want to check your state's current funding of law enforcement, particularly special victims' units or the like and request more funding and personnel for that unit in the event there is a backlog of cases or the department is overwhelmed and under-funded. In Orange County, California the department you would want to see expanded and funded more is Special Victims Detail. Right now, there are eleven total officers in that department with a known 5,000 sex offenders living in the county. So, it would seem demanding more funding and officers to handle the caseload would be the best solution coupled with timely reporting of such crimes regardless of where the crime may have occurred or the parties involved.
This is just one example of how to focus on solutions in activism and I hope the #MeToo movement and all victims of crime report it in time for justice to be feasible.