Trauma in the face of justice

Seven years since the #MeToo movement began, we now have hindsight about sea changes, repercussions and things that have stayed the same.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.Express illustrations

Too quietly, it felt to me, incarcerated serial predator and media mogul Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 conviction for rape was overturned, on a technical basis: that testimony from beyond the three women who had pressed charges was used in the proceedings.

He remains behind bars for another conviction for rape, with a 16-year sentence that began in 2022 and is presently receiving private, high-quality medical attention at the facility.

The quietness I observed was not an absence of press coverage, which is there, but in a more sombre public response. In its own way, this is a good thing: flashes of outrage are only that, and we must also save our energy. Weinstein has not been freed. There are others concerned.

Seven years since the #MeToo movement began, we now have hindsight about sea changes, repercussions and things that have stayed the same.

The hashtag may not be popular any longer, but the ideas that it surfaced in the collective consciousness have helped many people confront or find closure on issues on multiple fronts. It is true of all movements that there are periods of momentum, periods of reflection, and periods of setback—and sometimes these may be happening all at once, in different spaces.

What if Weinstein hadn’t also been convicted in 2022?

The notion is unsettling.

Last month, I made plans with a new acquaintance. Barely ten minutes into meeting up, she mentioned in passing a predator I had the misfortune of knowing over a decade ago, but whose name still gives me trauma and palpitations.

I asked her if she knew him, and she said 'yes'. I asked her if she was friends with him, and she said ‘yes’.

I said, ‘This is awkward, but please don’t mention me to him’. She said ‘ok’.

She spoke a little bit about how she knew him; I did not say how I had.

I liked her. We spent hours together. I wanted to not write her off on the basis of who she knew, and I didn’t.

But by midnight, I was sobbing on the phone to a friend, triggers and disappointment flaring. This particular predator is well-respected and has never been publicly taken down.

I have noticed how women, even his victims and certainly those who are aware of what he has done to many, protect and defend him.

This means that I could either heed my own prior knowledge and thank the universe that pertinent information came to me quickly, or I could ignore precedence. This decision is part of how we keep going in the absence of justice. There are so many moving parts to this. Whether faceless or front-and-centre, none of it is easy.

As I write this, Lok Sabha and NDA politician Prajwal Revanna has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault, with videos of the violence being circulated. Thus, survivors have had their identities revealed, which means stigmatisation and a range of challenges—even if Revanna faces legal consequences.

Justice looks like different things, in different lights.

Here is a rhetorical question: is the arm of the law as long as the shadow of this kind of trauma?

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