For the many, many victims of sexual harassment out there, 2017 has been at once a celebratory and frustrating year. On the one hand,
powerful men are being outed as sexual predators, and being forced to actually contend with real consequences of their actions. On the other hand, this wave of powerful men across so many industries having to leave their positions only came about because of the bravery of the people who they harassed and assaulted.
In other words, this is progress. But there is still work to do.
For one thing, society still needs to
shift the responsibility for sexual harassment onto the harassers, by instilling boys with the knowledge that sexual harassment is always wrong, in all cases, from the time that they're young. It also needs to start giving victims the benefit of the doubt, instead of the other way around.
"There is ample evidence really out there in the world that this is a very serious and common problem, with deep ripples of aftereffects," says National Sexual Violence Resource Center Chief Public Affairs Officer Kristen Houser. "It's high time that that's the backdrop for when we hear a single person make an allegation — we should begin by believing."
Victims have a million
reasons not to report sexual assault or harassment; wouldn't it be better if potential harassers had a million reasons not to do it on the first place? Hopefully, their ousting mean that the tide is turning. Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the
sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly, which hit the news in April, now really seem like a harbinger of what was coming for many powerful, seemingly untouchable men who were later outed — and sometimes ousted — because of similar allegations.
Despite O'Reilly's position as one of Fox News' top ratings producers,
he was forced to leave Fox News after the news broke that Fox had reportedly paid five women over $13 million in settlements after they accused O'Reilly of alleged sexual harassment. O'Reilly has repeatedly denied all claims of sexual misconduct and says the allegations have put him through a "horrible" experience. He added, "The pain it brings to my children is indescribable." Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Kevin Spacey's case has reminded us that not all sexual harassment victims are women. When actor
Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexual harassment, Spacey responded to by saying that he didn't remember the alleged encounter and then apologized — but then in the same statement, Spacey came out as gay, effectively overshadowing Rapp's claims.
Since then, several
employees at Spacey's hit show have come out with similar accusations. Spacey has not publicly responded to allegations from the show's employees. Netflix has suspended filming of the final season. House of Cards Patrick Smith/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
After actresses Heather Lind and Jordana Grolnick alleged that former President
George H. W. Bush had inappropriately groped them and then made a dirty joke about it during a photo op, one of Bush's spokespeople responded by saying that because President Bush is in a wheelchair, his arm naturally falls at most people's lower waist.
"To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke," the spokesman told CNN. "And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate." He also issued an apology to Lind on behalf of the former president.
Since then, though,
two other women have accused the former president of alleged harassment in very similar circumstances. In lieu of a different comment, the spokesman re-issued the same statement he had made in response to the previous allegations. Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
head of Amazon Studios, Roy Price was pushed out after a producer for the Amazon show The Man in the High Castle publicly accused him of having sexually harassed her in 2015. Price did not publicly comment on or deny the allegations.
According to Isa Dick Hackett, he had propositioned her and had lewd conversations with her. Almost immediately after news of her allegations broke, Amazon suspended Price.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Dozens of women, including A-list actresses like Rachel McAdams and Julianne Moore, have publicly accused
movie director James Toback of sexually harassing them. As is often the case, these accusations follow the same pattern of Toback reportedly bragging about his position, inviting them up to his hotel room using work as an excuse, and then allegedly turning the situation into something exceedingly uncomfortable and scarring for the women involved. Toback has forcefully denied all of the allegations, but the New York Times reports that the talent agency that represented him has dropped him. Chris Savino, who created the Nickelodeon show The Loud House was fired from his position after at least 12 women accused him of alleged workplace sexual harassment spanning over 10 years. Savino apologized for his behavior but did not explicitly deny it, saying in a Facebook post that he had "nothing but the deepest respect for the bravery of the women who have spoken out, trying to create an environment in which they can thrive to their fullest potential.” Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
After actor Ben Affleck came out swinging against Harvey Weinstein, and then only hours after he publicly wrote of his disappointment with Weinstein,
actress Hilarie Burton reminded the world that Affleck had groped her on the set of the MTV show TRL. Affleck then apologized to Burton, and he has since taken additional steps toward fulfilling his pledge to become part of the solution. He announced that any future residuals he receives from Weinstein films will go straight to charities benefiting women and victims of sexual assault. Paul Morigi/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Wieseltier wasn't the only one making the
New Republic a toxic environment for women trying to succeed in the media world. New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish resigned from his position after initially having been asked to take an indefinite leave of absence following claims from a number of women at the magazine that he had behaved inappropriately toward them. Fish has not denied the allegations, but he did announce that he was stepping down in a letter, saying, “Women have longstanding and profound concerns with respect to their treatment in the workplace. Many men have a lot to learn in this regard. I know I do.” Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Clive Mason/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Actresses Portia de Rossi, Julianna Margulies, and Lisa Guerrero have all
publicly accused actor Steven Seagal of sexually harassing them when they were auditioning to work with him. In each of the cases, Seagal allegedly invited them into a private space to audition before behaving very inappropriately toward them. Seagal has not responded to the allegations. Based on a tweet that de Rossi posted about her experience, his behavior was an open secret in the business. Rich Fury/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Two women have accused Dustin Hoffman of sexual harassment, which Hoffman responded to with an apology, but he did not deny the allegations. His director on the set of the movie where the main set of allegations against him came from, however, claims that Hoffman was only a "kidder," and that the allegations had gone too far — even though Hoffman displayed troubling behavior in other cases across his career.
It's not uplifting to discover that men whose work you respect got there while harassing women and making their professional journeys that more difficult. However, it's more heartening to imagine that this wave of men losing their jobs after being outed as sexual predators might actually have a lasting effect.
"I think a series of events played a role in this tipping point — the election of
Donald Trump, an admitted sexual predator, the denial of justice to Bill Cosby's victims, the lenient sentence given to Brock Turner by Judge Persky," says Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who is also the chair of the campaign to Recall Judge Persky, the judge who gave out the lenient sentence in the recent Stanford rape case. "Women are starting to lose faith in the legal system and are seeking to remedy that injustice, as well as to protect other women from harm."