Why we need to financially support survivors with legal defense funds like Time's Up
If you watched the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday night, you watched the majority of attendees wear black to honor those who have spoken out against sexual violence in the past three months. However, wearing black head-to-toe wasn’t the only solidarity statement made through fashion last night.
You also may have noticed another small detail on the jackets of Justin Timberlake, Daniel Kaluuya, Ewan McGregor, Joe and Nick Jonas and other male celebrities: pins bearing the phrase “Time’s Up.”
Deemed this year’s Golden Globes political accessory by the New York Times, the black-and-white pins represent an initiative created by 300 hundred women in the entertainment industry to fight back against sexual misconduct. The Time’s Up website is self-aware in that their “Dear Sisters” letter doesn’t just center the Hollywood elite but shares a message from Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women’s Alliance) about advocating for female farm workers.
Time’s Up organizers also founded a legal defense fund, which members have financially contributed to in order to help subsidize legal support for those who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation at work. The GoFundMe, which will be managed by the National Women’s Law Center, has raised more than $16 million since launching just two weeks ago.
Justin Timberlake was one of the actors who wore a “Time’s Up” pin, but on Twitter many have criticized Timberlake’s gesture of solidarity since he recently starred in Wonder Wheel. Released last year, the film was directed by Woody Allen who has been followed by sexual assault allegations for years.
Newman’s contribution speaks to a larger issue of financially supporting survivors, since providing financial resources to cover legal support is one way to take the burden off those who have been victimized.
Speaking out against abusers has proven to be expensive, beyond just the legal costs.
At Huffington Post, Yassmin Abdel-Magied compiled research about how women’s employment and financial stability is impacted by workplace sexual misconduct. A 2003 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity study found that when employees were vocal about sexual misconduct in the workplace, two-thirds of them experienced work-based retaliation. In 2008, the American Psychological Association discovered a link between Black women experiencing sexual harassment and “work withdrawal.” As recently as 2016, nearly half of the housekeepers in the Chicago hospitality industry endured sexual misconduct at the hands of hotel guests, and 56% of those women said they “did not feel safe returning to work.”
Just last week, the home of Tina Johnson — one of the women who accused Roy Moore of sexual misconduct after being groped in his law office back in 1991 — was burned down. Officials have been investigating the fire as a case of arson. This is a prime examples of why many survivors don’t speak out in the first place. Not only do survivors often carry the weight of the trauma related to the initial incident of sexual harassment and/or violence, but they also fear retaliation for speaking out.
Last October, actress Misty Upham’s father alleged that she was raped by one of Weinstein’s production team members at the same Golden Globes ceremony she was honored at in 2013, and it has been said that Upham had DNA evidence. While his daughter was never the same after the Golden Globes incident, he also pointed out that the incident was known about among the rest of the team. Upham spoke out against being raped several times, including being gang-raped on a Native American reservation when she was 13 years old — but she died mysteriously, and her body was found in a river days after she went missing.
Many attribute the silence around Upham’s trauma to Hollywood’s lack of solidarity for people of color, who face higher rates of harassment and sexual violence compared to white women. On average, 1 in 3 Native women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Additionally, Black women face a 35 percent higher rate of intimate violence compared to white women. Legal defense funds can help to support these survivors who are further marginalized by the court system.
Especially in the era of #MeToo, many survivors might feel left out of the conversation because it’s not safe for them to come forward about their abuser(s).
While we honor those who come forward with their stories, let’s not forget how privileged people — particularly rich men — can contribute to the conversation: by giving money to survivors.
Donate to Time’s Up legal defense fund here.