Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on the recent overhaul of the Vatican’s Code of Canon law, pointing out areas in which it shows promise and also its possible shortcomings. Despite some features that warrant skepticism, Professor Wexler argues that the reforms reflect a serious reckoning with past scandals, evolving understandings of consent, and an attempt to use the criminal code to deter bad behavior both by sexual abusers and those who would protect them, rather than their victims.
Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a recent announcement by the Army Forces Command that fformal sexual harassment complaints would be moved out of the direct chain of command, instead going to an investigating officer outside the accused’s brigade. Professor Wexler explains that, while this might read as a small procedural change, it is actually a meaningful step for an institution long committed to a commander-centric justice model.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explores why people have such strong feelings about the #MeToo movement (whether they are advocates or opponents) and suggests that both sides rest their positions on contested empirical assumptions about the behavior of men and women. Colb argues that what we believe to be true of men and women generally contributes to our conclusions about the #MeToo movement and our perceptions about how best to handle the accusations of those who come forward.
Joanna L. Grossman, law professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, reviews how disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein started the #MeToo movement. Grossman details the origins of the #MeToo movement, particularly Weinstein’s role, and describes how Weinstein’s despicable behavior helped to illuminate and begin to address sexual misconduct not only by individuals, but throughout entire industries.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on a recent report on Faculty Sexual Misconduct issued by a committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the University’s approach to sexual harassment. Wexler begins to explore the proposed reforms, describing the major changes and what they aim to address, and she raises some of the questions that the reforms present.
Illinois Law professors Lesley Wexler and Jennifer Robbennolt respond to a recent op-ed by Professor Cass Sunstein, in which Sunstein suggests that an apology is a risky strategy for a public figure seeking election or re-election. Wexler and Robbennolt point out three troubling aspects of Sunstein’s op-ed and argue that rather than abstain from giving apologies altogether, perhaps public figures should study apologies and learn how to give—and live—a good one.
In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler, Jennifer Robbennolt, and Jennie Pahre continue their discussion of the legal mechanism of cy pres—by which a court decides a remedy based on how closely it serves the intended purpose (originally from the law of trusts). The authors draw upon the plot and characters of the television show Fleabag to illustrate how restorative justice might help re-center the #MeToo debate away from its seemingly sole punitive focus and more towards the twin purposes of victim restoration and deterrence.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes recently passed anti-discrimination laws in New York that improve protections for victims of sexual harassment and assult. Grossman describes the role of the #MeToo movement in increasing awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and praises New York for being a leader in protecting the rights of women.
In light of recent revelations about Ryan Adams, a powerful musician and music producer, Illinois law professors Robin B. Kar and Lesley Wexler discuss the collective harm the scourge of sexual harassment inflicts on society, depriving it of countless and invaluable contributions. Kar and Wexler point out that research demonstrates that experiences of sexual harassment cause not only individual harms to women (such as decreases in mental and physical well-being) but also organizational withdrawal, decreases in organizational commitment, and decreases in productivity and job performance. The exact losses due to this withdrawal have yet to be measured, but evidence suggests the magnitude is enormous.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler discusses a draft treaty by the International Labor Organization that would address, on a global scale, many of the issues of workplace harassment and sexual assault that the #MeToo movement has brought into the spotlight. Wexler describes how the treaty is grounded in human rights language and would create protections for workers far more expansive than even those recognized under current US law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2018 peace prize to relatively unknown contenders for leading efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Wexler considers whether the decision might be “pinkwashing”—a term Wexler derives from “whitewashing” to mean (1) an institution or individual’s deployment and publicity of policies and practices (2) in response to the identification of a #MeToo or sex discrimination related grievance, (3) which does not address the underlying concern of the aggrieved and (4) is intended to establish, maintain, burnish, or restore institutional reputation. Wexler raises and discusses the question how one distinguishes sincere efforts to address a #MeToo problem from pinkwashing.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the recent allegations that Asia Argento—an alleged victim of Harvey Weinstein and vocal #MeToo advocate—committed statutory rape against then-17-year-old Jimmy Bennett. Wexler argues that if the allegations are true and Argento is what is known as a “complex victim,” society should judge Argento neither more harshly, by virtue of the female perpetrator’s violation of traditional gender roles, nor less harshly, simply because she is also a victim, than other complex victims.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the #ChurchToo movement, a campaign arising from the viral #MeToo movement, that seeks to raise awareness of sexual assault in the specific context of churches. Wexler describes the similarities between the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, as well as some key differences, and explains that any meaningful change must come largely from within these communities due to challenges in church doctrine and philosophy, particularly with evangelical churches.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman gives a brief overview of the #MeToo movement and describes the great strides our society has made, yet also the challenges it still faces. Specifically, Grossman points out that it is now time for businesses and lawmakers to figure out how best to prevent sexual harassment while protecting women’s career opportunities.
Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how insurance, chamber of commerce, and religious lobbyists are impeding child sex abuse victims’ access to justice in several states. Hamilton points to three states that were considering bills that seemed optimistic but have since been turned sideways by big business and powerful lobbyists.
Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb examines two (real, but slightly altered) conversations in order to explore the thoughts and feelings that might affect the weight we give to principles that support our positions, while disregarding the same principles when they run contrary to our positions. Colb describes the interrelatedness of conversations that arise regarding rape, racism, and free speech, specifically in the context of college fraternities, but applicable to many other situations.
Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explores the narrative of the so-called career death penalty that has arisen from the #MeToo movement and considers lustration—a process of purging or vetting individuals responsible for abuses of the state—as a mechanism to govern some of the high-profile harassers. Wexler calls upon the public and the media to help create a different story—a better world—where individuals who have engaged in harassment no longer need to serve as cultural or economic arbiters.
Marci A. Hamilton, the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, explains why Bill Cosby’s retrial for the sexual assault of Andrea Constand will likely go differently from the first one, which ended in a mistrial. Hamilton describes the changes in public awareness and understanding of sexual assault over the past year, as well as some procedural differences between the first trial and the retrial.
Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb explains how denial and devaluation have been used as weapons against African Americans and against women. Colb defines both of these terms and describes how they have been used to disbelieve stories of police brutality and rape.
Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, critiques President Donald Trump for failing to mention the #MeToo movement during his State of the Union address. Hamilton posits that like Dr. Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually abusing 265 young gymnasts, Trump believes he can indefinitely deflect questions about sexual assault, but she argues that he can do so only because the Republicans and evangelicals are propping him up.