The #MeToo movement has empowered women to speak up about the sexual harassment and assault they’ve endured, and in some cases call out their abusers by name.
A possible consequence of this? Defamation lawsuits or cease and desist letters threatening legal action if word continues to spread about the alleged abuse.
That’s led one woman to create a fund to help survivors of sexual violence defend themselves against this type of retaliation. Indigenous writer and activist Alicia Elliott launched the YouCaring.com fund this week, setting a $5,000 goal to start.
“I’ve been incredibly troubled by the rise in Canada of powerful men using their access to lawyers to silence the women accusing them of abuse and sexual assault,” Elliott writes, before listing off a number of cases in Canada’s academic and literary communities in which she says silencing has occurred.
These include allegations of sexual misconduct made against a prominent poet and author at Concordia University — accusers have had their social media shut down for circulating the name in posts — and against Steven Galloway, a writer and professor at the University of British Columbia, whom Margaret Atwood has publicly defended.
“[W]e cannot let these men use their money and power to keep women quiet and remain unaccountable,” Elliott writes.
The fund will aim to help women consult a lawyer to figure out next steps if they receive a cease and desist letter, and — if enough money is raised — also help cover the costs of defending any lawsuits that arise as a result of women speaking out.
“These women should not be alone in their fight to give voice to their stories,” Elliott writes. So far the fund has raised nearly $900.
Recent high-profile cases of sexual misconduct have highlighted how women who speak up about abuse are often threatened with legal ramifications, which might become a serious and unexpected financial burden.
Beleaguered Ontario politician Patrick Brown initially met sexual misconduct allegations against him by saying, “I’ve instructed my attorneys to ensure these allegations are addressed where they should be, in the court of law.” He has since said he is suing CTV for publishing the allegations, and that the women who spoke with them should make complaints against him to police.
The former singer of Canadian band Crystal Castles is suing his ex-bandmate who publicly claimed he had sexually abused her for years.
Elliott’s fund has a much more modest goal than another fund that’s been circulating this week — a GoFundMe set up by journalist Jonathan Kay, who is hoping to raise $15,000 for “helping victims of ideological mobs.” His fund has already raised more than $7,000.