Article in a Series: #MeToo Nears 1st Anniversary; Ventura County Reflects

#MeToo in Ventura County

(Ventura  County, Ca) On October 5, 2017 Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, reporters from the New York Times, released their compelling article entitled “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.”

The article detailed multiple accounts and a myriad of sources reflecting Harvery Weinstein (Hollywood powerhouse) and his predatory behavior over 40 years. Over a period and days and weeks, more victims came forward. Today, his alleged victims include Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Selma Hayek, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale, and 80+ other woman that have come forward publicly. Social media was abuzz with people talking about the stories.Alyssa Milano #MeToo Tweet

Ten days after the article was published by the New York Times, Hollywood actress, Alyssa Milano, tweeted a message stating, “If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

The. World. Stopped. And. Tweeted: #MeToo

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Tarana Burke, a social activitist, began using the phrase in 2006. Milano helped popularize it. Posts were everywhere with seemingly everyone (women, men, young people, old people, people of every race, ethnicity, and religious preference) sharing that they had experienced some form of harassment.

Since the story broke, the #metoo movement has been credited with exposing multiple scandals not only in Hollywood but elsewhere. Some notable cases include:

  • Eric Schneiderman: New York Attorney General who is accused of beating (choked, hit, and slapped) and humiliating at least 4 women
  • Alexie Sherman: Prominent American Author is accused by at least 20 women for unwanted advances and inappropriate remarks and to threats against fellow American Indians. Ten women spoke to NPR about inappropriate comments to unwanted sexual advances and consensual sexual relations.
  • Bill Cosby: After years of cases and allegations, Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault after more than 35 women publicly shared their stories.

 

Defining Sexual Harassment

 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is “to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.”

Th California government website writes, “State regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of prohibited behavior:

  • Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters.
  • Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes. Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual.
  • Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements.
  • Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Making or threatening retaliatory action after receiving a negative response to sexual advances.

#MeToo In Ventura County

While the Sacramento Bee reported in January 2018 that the State of California paid more than$25 million in the last three fiscal years to settle sexual harassment claims against state agencies and public universities, Ventura County is fortunate not to have scandals of these magnitudes.

However, in the last 5 years, stories of sexual harassment have made local news, including that of the Conti Family based in Westlake Village.

In Fall 2013, two Westake High School freshmen began having exchanges at school. The boy is alleged to have made comments of a sexual nature to Gianna Conti, who was a Westlake High School freshman and swimmer at the time.

Conti reported the issue to a teacher, but the problem escalated.

“It is a painful ordeal to see your loved ones go through this,” shared Larry Conti, father of Gianna Conti. Gianna alleged that the fellow student and his friends repeatedly harassed her with verbal sexual advances along with efforts to intimidate her and her family. Gianna’s brother, Dominic, and father, Larry, ultimately confronted the young man. That event led to accusations by both parties of violence by the other.

“What made this very hard was that things got worse and not better after I told the school what happened,” shared Gianna Conti, who is now 19 years old and a sophomore in college. Gianna ultimately left Westlake High School for Oaks Christian. “The harassment was constant. This was not one event with a possible misunderstanding between two people. This was ongoing and repeated efforts by him and his friends to make me feel belittled and berated with off color comments, presence at my sports practices watching me, and uncomfortable encounters throughout our time on campus attending classes.”

“It’s hard to believe it has been 4 years,”explains Gina Conti, Gianna’s mother. “It was a painful time for my family and our saving grace was the support we received from our friends and community. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Efforts to interview the young man, who is now also of college age, were not successful.

After Gianna left Westlake High School, the young man was expelled for sexually harassing another student on campus.

COMING UP: Article in a Series: Part 2- Heroes of #MeToo

 

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this article. This has happened to many women and some men I know. The Conti story still amazes me in a horrible way.

  2. OH Wow. I think of the “Me Too” movement as more Hollywood. To get this flashback of what happened to the Conti’s just makes me cringe and cry. I remember how she was treated by certain members of the CVUSD when she tried to tell her story. How the family was not able to defend her or her brother. WHEN her MICROPHONE was cut off by a board member who is still ON that board. “Me Too” happening to children is not okay, and adults that don’t protect them need to leave. THANK you for this article. I also see that our school board minority does NOT want a simple asterisk on a syllabus of a book that contains sexual content. Those kids that are at risk should not have to read these sexual stories that I have seen on the core literature list. I want conservatives in charge of MY school board who let the PARENTS decide. THIS is the only way to combat a child needing to say: “Me Too”. Thanks you Voice.

  3. GREAT article. So sad that we have “MeToo” victims in CVUSD. WHEN will we have a school board that listens to parents?

  4. WAIT… Isn’t Alexie Sherman the author in the highly debated CVUSD book debate? Betsy Connoly and Pat Phelps wants our kids to read that book and not let parents know there is sexual content? THAT author is accused of sexual harrassment? What did I miss?!!! Please continue this series of Me Too. I am now a very anxious parent.

  5. The problem with the ME TOO movement is that when everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis. When you see so many people claiming they were “violated” you start wondering how many are actually victims. With so many people jumping on the bandwagon, it takes away from the stories of actual abuse. Yes, there are actual cases of sexual abuse and harassment, but when just about everyone you know claims “me too”, people start to question the validity of all of these claims (including the ones that are real).

  6. I just saw the video of all the women declaring they believe Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser. I feel like this is a result of the ME TOO movement. What I would like to know is…on what are they basing their support for this woman?? She hasn’t even told her story, and yet women are lining up like sheep to say, “We believe you!!” What exactly do they believe. For everyone’s sake, let’s wait until she tells her story and he defends himself before deciding he’s an abuser and she’s a victim. People are just a little too eager to find another “victim” to hold up as they do their moral grandstanding and portray all men as bad, bad, bad. SMDH

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