When the #MeToo movement began trending on social media toward the end of 2017, it shook the bedrock of male-dominated industries. For the first time, many sexual assault victims were given a platform to speak.
It was a movement long needed, and it represented a step toward handling sexual abuse at large in American culture.
Many in the long list of men exposed by the movement were famous husbands, with people like Ben Affleck and Louis C.K. dethroned. These married men were finally going to face some social and legal consequences for their actions.
However, the spouses of men affected by #MeToo are rarely talked about by the media. Due to the personal and circumstantial nature of each case, there is a cloud of mystery around these relationships. There are examples of women standing by their partners (such as the family of Brett Kavanaugh), but fewer have outright left their husbands (like Annette Roque, the ex-wife of Matt Lauer). It’s very possible that with the allegations exposed by #MeToo, more high-profile marriages could be coming to an end.
How #MeToo Shook American Marriages
Sexual Abuse in Marriage
The media will sometimes cover domestic violence within a married household, but at large it has skipped over spousal sexual abuse. Historically, marital rape has been invalidated around the world. However, there have been many scathing critiques of this that are finally starting to make an impact.
For instance, there are now laws that specifically prohibit marital rape and take it seriously. Although many of these laws have terrifying loopholes, many are working to address this and make the world a safer place. In the face of issues like human trafficking and gender violence, it’s clear more must be done. The amount of time and effort this has taken proves that rape culture and toxic masculinity are true problems to contend with.
It’s clear that there is still work to be done. #MeToo is a direct response to this society that neglects or blames victims of rape and assault.
#MeToo and the American Woman
The impact of #MeToo has been international, but it has largely focused on American women. This isn’t too surprising, as the 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report ranked the United States at #51 for gender equality out of 149 nations. One would think that the most powerful country in the world would have progressive standards regarding the treatment of women, especially considering its diversity and technological prowess.
However, that is reportedly not the case. While American technology has given us progressive tools such as the rape kit (created in the late 1970s by Chicago Police Sgt. Louis Vitullo), the issue still fails to be addressed appropriately. There is a major backlog of tested rape kits in the United States, leaving many victims without justice.
With the #MeToo movement, however, many women have made the choice to speak out. Since the media heavily reported on these allegations, we will hopefully see more rape kits tested and sexual predators brought to justice. #MeToo has opened up serious conversations about what consent is, and it seems to be changing male and female relationships at large.
#MeToo’s Empowerment for Women to Leave Unhealthy Marriages
Those in unhealthy marriages may find themselves in a place of empowerment after seeing so many women come forth publicly about their abuse. This sort of social encouragement can be instrumental in helping them find the courage to walk away. One person can make a difference for many in these cases.
Of course, women’s empowerment cannot be talked about without addressing economic empowerment either. Filing for divorce in a timely manner can mean an estranged spouse is able to get a reasonable amount of money from their marital estate. This can help individuals (and their children) stay afloat in a time of great change. If someone needs funds after their estranged spouse has been accused or fired, the state may be able to help as well.
If a woman is not the victim of this abuse, but her husband is still accused, she may still gain money from their broken marital estate if she applies quickly. However, if the wife of an abuser knew about his crimes and did not say anything, their children may be handed over to foster care while the parents are evaluated.
These are things for potential divorcees to consider in light of #MeToo allegations. The movement has flipped American gender politics on its head and brought sexual assault to light in ways that were previously unthinkable.
As we navigate through the dust of this social reckoning, we may see more examples of toxic marriages ending and abused spouses finding justice.