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MeToo | Munk Debates

EPISODE #34

MeToo

Be it resolved the #MeToo movement has gone too far.

Guests
Donna Rotunno
Jane Manning

About this episode

Earlier this year, Tara Reade accused presidential candidate, Joe Biden, of sexually assaulting her while she was working for him as a Senate aide in 1993. The charges of sexual impropriety come at a crucial point in the lead up to the US election on November 3, the first presidential race of the #MeToo era. President Trump has also been accused by numerous women of sexual assault and unwanted touching, allegations that he continues to deny.

Supporters of the #MeToo movement welcome this cultural watershed moment for gender relations. They say the movement is forcing society to rethink traditional power relationships between men and women and provides a check on out of control male entitlement and the silencing of women. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, victims of sexual harassment have finally been given a voice and overdue justice.

For #MeToo’s detractors, the movement has gone too far – such as the case of former Senator Al Franken, who resigned after facing allegations of sexual misconduct which have never been proven in court or investigated by Congress. To the critics of the #MeToo movement, the principle “believe all women” has led to the vilification of innocent men, the perpetuation of a victimhood mentality, and the victory of mob rule over due process and basic fairness. They argue it is time for a rethink of the #MeToo movement by women and men who care about the future of relationships between the sexes.

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Guests

Donna Rotunno

"#MeToo has allowed women to sit behind keyboards and make a wide spectrum of claims that are not investigated and have the potential to ruin the lives of those accused with absolutely no way to defend themselves."

Donna Rotunno

"#MeToo has allowed women to sit behind keyboards and make a wide spectrum of claims that are not investigated and have the potential to ruin the lives of those accused with absolutely no way to defend themselves."

Donna A. Rotunno has been practicing criminal law for twenty years and is the founding partner of her own law practice. Ms. Rotunno began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. As a prosecutor, Ms. Rotunno litigated hundreds of cases in multiple divisions of the Circuit Court of Cook County. 
 
After three years as a prosecutor, Ms. Rotunno left the State’s Attorney’s office to pursue a career as a private criminal defense attorney. In 2005, she became the principal member of her own law firm in Chicago. She has secured numerous judgments of acquittal on behalf of clients in both state and federal court, and is widely regarded as a leading authority on criminal litigation in the United States. She has represented several high-profile clients in cases that have made both local, national, and world headlines. Most notably, Ms. Rotunno served as lead counsel in the highly publicized case of The People of the State of New York v. Harvey Weinstein. Her work on behalf of her clients has garnered several professional accolades, and has made her a prominent voice in the national media on behalf of those who seek justice and the due process of law. Currently Ms. Rotunno represents hundreds of defendants facing the most serious of criminal charges in the state of Illinois, and around the country. A portion of her practice is also devoted to serving as a strategic advisor to individuals in the public eye who find themselves in contact with the criminal justice system.

Jane Manning

"What we're looking for in the #MeToo movement is not to hurt all men, but to stop those small numbers of men who prey on people."

Jane Manning

"What we're looking for in the #MeToo movement is not to hurt all men, but to stop those small numbers of men who prey on people."

Jane Manning is Director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, where she helps sexual assault survivors navigate the criminal justice system.  A former sex crimes prosecutor, she has devoted her career to combating gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking.  Her efforts helped eliminate New York State’s statute of limitations on rape, and she helped write New York’s laws against strangulation and human trafficking.  
 
She trains first-year prosecutors on interviewing crime victims and teaches as an adjunct professor at Hunter College.  Her commentary has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and many other outlets. 

Show Notes

In the debate both Jane Manning and Donna Rotunno refer to the founder of Me Too, Tarana Burke.  In a 2018 TED Talk, “Me Too is a movement not a moment,” Tarana Burke reflects on the global movement to address sexual violence that she started in 2006.
 
During the debate Donna Rotunno and Jane Manning have different analyses of the meaning of Tarana Burke’s statements in an The Atlantic article about the direction the #MeToo movement has taken. You can read the article here.
 
Jane Manning also referred to a “bombshell” The Atlantic article called “An Epidemic of Disbelief: What new research reveals about sexual predators and why police fail to catch them.” Jane cites research from Case Western Reserve University that shows that perpetrators of sexual assault represent a small minority of men who tend to be repeat offenders. You can read an article about “one man walking crime waves” here.
 
Donna Rotunno dates the start of the #Me Too movement to the 2017 publication of Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker article  From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories.
 
In the debate Jane Manning says the vast majority of women decide to speak up about sexual assault to help protect other women. She refers to a documentary called On the Record, which is about former music executive Drew Dixon’s experience with sexual harassment and rape. You can read a review about the documentary here.

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