The #MeToo movement has been termed as one of reckoning, seemingly able to take down powerful abusers through the brave articulations of survivors of sexual violence. Some of these survivors—both men and women—had spoken of their experiences to little effect in the past. But with the growing willingness to believe survivors, boosted by assertions that few are untouched by sexual violence, the movement in the western world appeared to end the careers of long-time abusers such as Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.
However in recent months, the reality that #MeToo has not taken down patriarchy itself has struck home. Only Cosby has been convicted so far. Meanwhile, comedian Louis C K, who admitted to sexual misconduct, after less than a year out of public view has begun his comeback. The question is, without criminal action (not all accusations can be prosecuted given the lapse of time), what recourse is available to the survivor? And what recourse is available to the accused?
The Kavanaugh hearings in the US bring this clash to life. Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of being allegedly sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was powerful. She was described as ‘credible’, an articulation of her class, colour and education. Survivors of sexual assault must be believed. Too often they are not. They come forward at great personal cost, with little to gain from a process universally acknowledged as traumatic. False reports are as few as they are for any other crime. But if as a society we are committed to believing survivors and ensuring civil liberties, due process is inescapable.
So we must ensure that believing survivors and due process are not at crossroads but in alignment. For this due process must look to serve survivors, not put them in the dock. We must build an environment where survivors can speak up. Closer home, in the show of support for actor Tanushree Dutta, from prominent names in Hindi cinema, hope springs that such an environment may not be an utopia.