Fueled by accusations against titans of Hollywood, industry and politics, the #MeToo movement will prompt state lawmakers across the country this year to consider bills that could fundamentally change the culture of dating and sex.
States are expected to grapple with legislation to establish affirmative consent — known as “yes means yes” — and rewrite rape and sexual assault laws. Legislatures already are considering more than two dozen bills that would strengthen laws against rape, teach students that both participants must consent to sexual activity, and extend the time to prosecute or sue those accused of sexual assault. They also will weigh measures to clarify sexual assault survivors’ rights, improve rape kit testing, and change the rules for sexual harassment settlements.
State lawmakers have debated such bills in the past. But this year a slew of accusations of sexual assault, misconduct and harassment — along with accounts such as the anonymous accusation against comedian Aziz Ansari — have given legislators greater momentum in pursuing policies that do more to crack down on abusers and support survivors. The bills have been introduced primarily by Democrats, but many have Republican co-sponsors.
“I’m hoping we are just reaching a time where people realize this is not a fad,” said Maine state Sen. Mattie Daughtry, a Democrat who introduced a bill this year to teach consent as part of sex education. “There is a wave. This is women stepping up for change, and this cannot be put on the back burner.”