, May 1, 2018

The #MeToo movement has shown once again the wisdom of the adage that there is strength in numbers — even as it highlights that it is still difficult for individual women who come forth with accusations of sexual harassment or assault to be supported or believed and thus find justice.

The power of #MeToo lies in the collective experience, solidarity and action its name implies. I don’t just believe you, it says, I can relate to your own experience. We are not just here for you. So many of us are you.

Young Spanish women (and some men) sent such a message through protests and sits-ins last week that rocked Spanish cities after five men accused of gang raping a teenage girl during the 2016 Running of the Bulls in Pamplona were convicted of the lesser offense of sexual abuse (which under Spanish law assumes no violence or intimidation occurred). The accused men, who had denied wrongdoing, had recorded video of their encounter with the victim. The prosecution and defense now plan to appeal the verdict.

Crowds took to the streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona and elsewhere to denounce the outcome of the trial for a crime that resonated worldwide because of the global fame of the San Fermín festival where it occurred. “Yo te creo/I believe you” read the protest signs in front of Madrid’s Ministry of Justice and elsewhere.

That message, repeated over and over again on so many signs, makes a difference at a time when the verdict in Spain might leave some discouraged for the fate of #MeToo on the global stage.

One lone woman or man protesting would have been an oddity, but the sea of bodies made the news, leading many Spanish female politicians to tweet their disagreement with the verdict and call for a revision of pertinent laws.

Contrast this scene with the women standing on the courthouse steps after Bill Cosby’s conviction on three counts of aggravated sexual assault against Andrea Constand in 2004. More than 50 women have accused the actor of sexual misconduct over a period of more than 40 years. Yet only one woman’s testimony apart from Constand’s was heard in court at his first trial in 2017, which produced a deadlocked jury. The message? Some of us believe you. And some of us are not sure. We need more evidence.

Read the entire essay at CNN