1 year after MeToo, survivors reflect on their disclosures
By DEEPTI HAJELA AND JULIET LINDERMAN
Tuesday, October 16
It was the tweet seen around the world.
On Oct. 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano urged the Twittersphere to join her in sharing a personal story of sexual harassment in the wake of rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote.
The response was immediate and overwhelming, and touched off a cultural movement that has shed light on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, assault and violence against women across all industries.
In the hours, weeks and months that followed the tweet, some recounted their experiences in harrowing detail. Some shared fresh stories, others old memories. Some named their accusers. Others simply said, “#metoo.”
The movement has been widely seen as a national reckoning. In the past year, some of the most powerful men in media, entertainment and politics have lost their jobs and reputations over accusations of misconduct.
Still, just weeks before the anniversary, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite multiple allegations of sexual assault. Some advocates and survivors saw his confirmation as an insult to the movement and its gains, others a reminder of how much works still needs to be done to secure gender parity in the United States. All said they’re hopeful for what the future holds.
A year later, a look at the movement, where we are now, and where we go from here.
FINDING COMFORT IN SHARING A SECRET
One day after Milano’s tweet Katie Labovitz, a 34-year-old writer living in Queens, shared a story about being sexually assaulted by a Donald Duck mascot at Epcot Theme Park when she was a young teen.
“The person inside the Duck at EPCOT groped me when I was 15,” she wrote.
A few days later, she posted eight more stories of harassment on Instagram.
“I’m sorry mom that you’re reading this,” she wrote.
Labovitz said she didn’t talk much about the Donald Duck incident, but it continued to haunt her into adulthood.
“It was kind of expected that you go on with life, because that’s what you do.” But, she pointed out, “It’s been 20 years. It just sticks with you.”
She said she decided to share to try to comfort other survivors, something she wished she’d had years ago. She said she was surprised how many friends told stories she hadn’t heard before.
“We all just kept it in, it was nice to be able to be public about it,” she said. “It’s nice to be supported. I wish I could have been more supportive for others but we all kind of kept it to ourselves.”
She called the initial tweet storm a “kind of outpouring of love and support even though it was all surrounding this terrible thing.”
It’s also been vindicating, she said, to see powerful public figures — Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Larry Nasser, to name a few — charged with crimes. But there have been disappointments: Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court amid multiple sexual misconduct allegations is a prime example, she said.
“I think I thought more would have happened in a year,” she said. “There’s no instant gratification, and I get that. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re being seen, and we’re being heard. There’s still a lot to do.”
“GIRL POWER” IN A HIJAB
Hana Hentzen was just beginning to come to terms with her sexual assault when she saw Milano’s tweet and the flood of responses it inspired.
It happened in middle school, at the hands of a teacher. When she went to the administration, Hentzen said she was told to keep quiet. She tried again to report the assault and was again told to keep it to herself.
Two months after Milano’s tweet, Hentzen found a way to be heard. An 18-year-old college student at American University in Washington, D.C., she decided to participate in a Reuters photo essay. In the photo, she wore a white T-shirt with “GIRL POWER” emblazoned across the chest in bright red letters, with a rose where the O should be.
Hentzen, who had converted to Islam four years earlier, also wore a hijab.
“I just felt really empowered to tell my story for the first time,” she said.
Although she’d seen the statistics Hentzen said she was stunned by the sheer number of women who spoke out about being harmed, assaulted, harassed or objectified.
“Logically, I knew I had friends, I had relatives, I had a lot of survivors in my life but it’s just something you never talk about. Something that I really liked was that you could share your whole story, or you could just share those two words.”
Hentzen said she wanted to provide support for others who have experienced abuse, particularly Muslim women.
“I wanted her to see a Hijabi, somebody that looks like her,” she said.
A year later, Hentzen said Kavanaugh’s confirmation shows how much work still needs to be done.
“That has been really difficult and disappointing. What’s the point of this movement if we aren’t able to hold our elected officials accountable to survivors?” she said.
But Hentzen said the movement, and the sheer act of sharing stories like hers, have forced the topic into the open and inspired a public reckoning that continues to empower her, and help her find her voice.
“A year ago, I wouldn’t have felt I could talk about it in person,” she said. “It’s definitely been validating and it’s helped me.”
“Survivors are speaking up now and I don’t think that’s going to change. This movement has sparked a fire in survivors and we aren’t going to shut up. … We’ve just gotten started.”
THE FACE OF #METOO ON CAPITOL HILL
Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, became the face of the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill when she shared her own story of being sexually harassed as a young congressional aide.
“The chief of staff held my face, kissed me, and stuck his tongue in my mouth,” Speier said in a video posted to her YouTube channel last October. “So, I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep inside.”
Speier’s story shed light on what she described as “a breeding ground for a hostile work environment.”
In the months that followed, more than a half-dozen lawmakers lost their jobs over sexual misconduct allegations. A House committee held hearings over the lack of protections in place for Hill staffers and lawmakers; Speier introduced legislation to overhaul the system.
“It’s been a time of highs and lows,” she said, speaking just hours after the Senate voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination. “Our country culturally has not come to grips with the devastation that sexual violence does to people, men and women. And the optimism that we had last fall and into this new year has been dampened by the last few weeks.”
Speier said she decided to share her story last year “because I wanted women in Congress to know they can come and talk to me and they would be safe and I would have their backs.”
But the story she shared publicly isn’t her only MeToo experience, and talking openly about her harassment brought back other painful memories.
“I can tell you the way I’ve coped with it throughout my life is to compartmentalize it,” she said. “That’s what victims do, they compartmentalize. They suppress it. And then something will hit them, and it resurrects all the trauma associated with it.”
Sharing also helped her understand the roots of her dedication to advocating for women, she said.
“It created an ‘a ha!’ moment in understanding why I’m so passionate about all these issues.”
Speier said she’s hopeful the movement won’t slow down.
“This is an incredibly long slog,” she said. “There is reason to feel very depressed today. But on the other hand, I have to brush myself off and start all over again. It has to be the beginning.”
“I WAS WORRIED ABOUT TELLING MY DAD”
Quianna Taylor never told her parents about the sexual assault that happened in college. After all, her mother had already had to deal with her first assault, which happened when she was 7 and was molested by a neighbor. It wasn’t that she was hiding it. The timing just never felt right.
In fact, Taylor, 36, didn’t tell anybody about her second assault until about three years ago. She was afraid she’d be blamed.
“We always think girls are old enough to know better,” said Taylor of Hyattsville, Maryland.
But when the MeToo hashtag began to take on a life of its own, Taylor decided “enough is enough.” She tweeted, not about her assault, but about the aftermath.
“We have to change the culture around consent,” she said. “Me just saying my small piece gives somebody the courage to know they can if they want to.”
The experience of seeing so many women openly share stories of being abused or violated is liberating. But it’s also disheartening, she said.
“So many of us, women and men, have had this happen,” she said. But “there’s a whole unification that comes in understanding shared trauma.”
Taylor credited the #MeToo movement with creating the space she needed to be able to tell her parents about her attack.
She didn’t go into detail or tell them everything. She said it happened and she wasn’t OK for a long time. But she assured them she’s OK now.
“I was worried about telling my dad,” she said. “I was worried about how this would make him feel about failing to keep me safe.”
That didn’t happen, though. Instead, he told her he was sorry, that he wished he could have done something and that he loved her.
She said her mother’s response to her disclosure felt familiar; she’d been through her own sexual assault.
“Her hurt was the hurt of a victim with another victim,” Taylor said.
Taylor said she’s encouraged by the public outcry, and the fact that powerful men are being held accountable. She said she’s hopeful that as the movement continues to gain momentum, more survivors will share their stories without shame or the fear of alienation.
“We’re at a place where we’re starting to examine, why don’t we believe women?” she said. “What does justice for these people look like? I don’t think we were culturally in a place to do that even 10 years ago.”
“We’ve got to keep forging ahead,” she said. “What’s the alternative?”
OVERCOMING FEAR TO SHARE HIS STORY
Kasey Neimeier was terrified when he shared his #MeToo story with the world for the first time.
Along with the hashtag #whyIdidntreport, he told of being groped by a co-worker when he was 18 years old. He was living as a woman at the time_it happened before his transition. Now 31, he’d kept the secret for 13 years, even from his wife of a decade.
He shared his story last month, on Sept. 23. Neimeier said the disclosure brought up painful memories of the episode, as well as other abuse he’d suffered as a child. But hard as it was, he said he doesn’t regret the decision to share.
“I was on Facebook and I saw another transman post a #MeToo. And I decided I would post one, too. Because I felt it needed to be said that it’s not just women who have gone through this,” he said.
“It’s a smaller percentage of course, but there are biological men that get abused, there are transmen that get abused, there are transwomen who are abused. So many people are the victims and survivors of abuse and don’t tell anybody and if you hold onto this, it just destroys you.”
Neimeier said he worried what sharing a #MeToo story would mean for his gender identity.
“I was scared of judgment, that it would make me less of a man,” he said, “to publicly come out with a story that is traditionally for biological women.”
Despite the pain of revisiting his assault, Neimeier said he’s glad he did. The more stories shared, the harder it’ll be to ignore the pervasiveness of the issue, he said.
“I felt it was important to say something, even if it was public, to say this is not just a biological women’s issue,” he said. “I don’t think as a society we can change without survivors saying, ‘This happened to me and it’s wrong,” he said.
Trump lashes out at Warren over DNA test, calls her ‘phony!’
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Tuesday, October 16
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday over DNA test results she released that indicate she has some Native American heritage, saying she is “getting slammed” over what he claimed is “a scam and a lie” despite Warren’s proof.
Trump called on his potential 2020 Democratic challenger to apologize and claimed that even the Cherokee Nation “denies her.”
Warren released the test results Monday in part to push back against Trump’s taunts about her claim of Native American ancestry. The results provide some evidence that a Native American is in her bloodline, though the ancestor probably lived six to 10 generations ago, according to the analysis.
An ancestor six generations removed would make Warren 1/64th Native American while an ancestor as much as 10 generations removed would render the Massachusetts Democrat only 1/1024th Native American, according to Blaine Bettinger, a genealogist and author who specializes in DNA evidence.
Trump, who belittles Warren by calling her “Pocahontas,” seized on the conclusion in a series of tweets early Tuesday.
“Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed,” he wrote. “She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, “DNA test is useless.” Even they don’t want her. Phony!”
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Monday that DNA tests are useless in determining tribal citizenship, which is determined by tribal nations. Hoskin accused Warren of “undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
Warren acknowledged in a tweet Monday that DNA and family history have nothing to do with tribal affiliation or citizenship, which is determined by tribal nations. “I respect the distinction, & don’t list myself as Native in the Senate,” she said.
Others questioned Warren’s decision to raise the issue so close to an election in which her party is focused on regaining control of the U.S. House.
“Now that her claims of being of Indian heritage have turned out to be a scam and a lie, Elizabeth Warren should apologize for perpetrating this fraud against the American Public,” Trump said in another tweet that ignored the evidence of her Native American background, however small the percentage.
Trump thanked the Cherokee Nation “for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!”
Hoskin, in his statement, did not refer to Warren as a “fraud.”
Trump also claimed Tuesday that Harvard, where Warren has taught law, called her “a person of color” (amazing con), and would not have taken her otherwise!” There is no evidence that Harvard ever publicly described her in that manner.
Charles Fried, the Harvard law professor who recruited Warren, has said any suggestion that she got her job in part because of a claim of minority status is “totally stupid, ignorant, uniformed and simply wrong.” Fried said Monday that when he presented her case to the faculty “I did not mention her Native American connection because I did not know about it.”
Trump had offered over the summer to donate $1 million to Warren’s favorite charity if a DNA test proved her Native American bloodline. On Monday, Trump first denied ever making such a promise. He later upped the ante by saying “I’ll only do it if I can test her personally.”
“That will not be something I enjoy doing either,” he added.
Warren tweeted that Trump is a “cowardly elitist” and that she “won’t sit quietly for Trump’s racism” so she took the test. She also said he makes “creepy physical threats” about women who scare him, including her.
“He’s trying to do what he always does to women who scare him: call us names, attack us personally, shrink us down to feel better about himself,” Warren said on Twitter. “It may soothe his ego – but it won’t work.”
She said she released the results “because I’ve got nothing to hide. What are YOU hiding, realDonaldTrump?” she wrote. “Release your tax returns – or the Democratic-led House will do it for you soon enough. Tick-tock, Mr President.”
Warren was referring to the Nov. 6 election, when Democrats hope to regain control of the House, which would put them in position to examine and possibly publicly release Trump’s income tax returns.
Trump has bucked decades of precedent by refusing to release the returns.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
Trump attacks porn actress Stormy Daniels as ‘Horseface’
Tuesday, October 16
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is insulting the physical appearance of porn actress Stormy Daniels, calling her “Horseface” in a tweet about a recent legal ruling.
A federal judge dismissed Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump.
Daniels alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and sued him in April. The defamation lawsuit came after Trump tweeted about a composite sketch of a man Daniels says threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. He called it a “total con job.”
The judge on Monday said Trump’s tweet was a “hyperbolic statement” protected under the First Amendment.
Trump tweeted: “Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer.”
Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti called Trump’s comments “outrageous.”
Trump has a history of derogatory comments about women’s appearances.
How the polls could have caught ‘surprise’ victories like Trump’s
October 16, 2018
Many pollsters have been asked to explain why they didn’t better predict the 2016 election.
Director of the Bioinformatics Research Center, North Carolina State University
Fred Wright does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
North Carolina State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency surprised almost everyone, including apparently Trump himself.
On the morning after the 2016 election, my teenage son made snarky comments about the state of polling and statistical science. As a trained statistician, I took offense. However, I had no background in political science and really no idea what had gone “wrong.”
So I decided to put him to work, gathering and entering vote totals and poll data from 2016 and past elections, to judge for ourselves. In our analysis, we examined the performance of presidential poll-based predictions and proposed a new, improved model.
The 2016 election caused considerable hand-wringing over the state of opinion polling. However, the best evidence is that current polling is generally sound, but tune-ups to one particular aspect of how polls are collected – notably the practice of aggregating poll data – would be helpful.
Polling versus prediction
After the unexpected election outcome, most observers concluded that the polls, on average, underestimated support for Trump. Such a systematic error is known as “polling bias.” Numerous reports and think pieces have tried to explain the bias, pinpointing specific problems in how polls assessed likely voters and were weighted by voters’ education levels. Public misunderstanding of the concept of uncertainty also played a role.
To understand the issues, it’s important to recognize the distinction between polls, which represent samples of individuals at a particular time using a particular methodology, and poll aggregation.
Poll results can vary greatly, depending on who is sampled and what methods the pollsters use to weight respondents to account for nonrepresentative sampling, or assess who is likely to vote. With more and more people not answering pollsters and using cellphones, it’s an amazing testament to the field that opinion polling still works as well as it does.
When it comes to predicting an election, one must reconcile the often disparate poll results. That’s the role of poll aggregation sites, such as FiveThirtyEight, The Upshot and HuffPost, which average recent polls to produce a consensus.
For presidential elections, the sites go further and make predictions for each state, to tally a final electoral college outcome. Flashy graphics and accessible content make the sites hugely popular, driving public perception of the likely outcome.
Did the poll aggregators really miss?
Our own research suggests that the polling bias was actually not very large – that is, pollsters may have underestimated the support for Trump but not to a large degree. However, due to a statistical quirk, the prediction models were unable to recognize the dropping support for Hillary Clinton just prior to the election.
We examined the state-level predictions across all 50 states, plus D.C., in 2016, as well as their stated uncertainty.
We found that FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot showed statistical bias and overestimated support for Clinton, but with enough uncertainty that their probabilities left room for a Trump victory. HuffPost had similar state-level predictions, but was overconfident in these predictions, markedly overestimating the chance of a Clinton victory.
When the polling data up the eve of the election were fully taken into account, we estimated the chance of a Trump victory as at least 47 percent. The main novelty in our approach was to use polling data from multiple states to “fill in” the sparse information from state-level polling. In contrast, the popular poll aggregation sites gave much lower chances, ranging from 2 percent on HuffPost to about 29 percent on FiveThirtyEight.
An alternate explanation
But why would the polls have biased against Trump in the first place? An extensive report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), an association for public opinion and survey research professionals, examined a number of possibilities, dismissing some popular theories.
Our own analysis suggests an additional possibility, hinted at in the AAPOR report: The polls weren’t highly biased and were roughly correct at the time. However, pollsters conducted too few state-level polls just prior to the election.
Remember, poll aggregators must average several polls to make a good prediction. Due to sparse state-level polling, predictions were “stuck” on values from about two weeks prior to the election, when support for Clinton had been higher.
Note that this sparse polling scenario indicates that polling methods are generally sound, although more frequent polling of swing states would be helpful.
Our rationale also explains why the estimate of the popular vote – 3.3 percent estimated margin for Clinton versus 2.1 percent actual – was largely accurate. National polls were conducted more frequently, and so the national averaging could include polls closer to the election.
Can pollsters do better?
The voter environment in 2016 election was unusual, with a sharp drop in support for the leading candidate prior to the election. Although it’s tempting to attribute the drop to then-FBI Director James Comey’s letter regarding an investigation into Clinton’s email server, we and others have noted that the drop in support for Clinton started in mid-October.
Although the 2016 experience was unusual, we proposed a statistical model designed to be sensitive to a national trend. The model combines information across numerous states, instead of relying only on polling within each state. The model estimates of the Democratic-Republican vote spread and overall win probabilities for the 90 days leading to an election.
Although our analysis was conducted after the election, we plan to try it out in 2020 in real time.