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Top 10 Courant Stories Of 2017 No. 1: The #MeToo Movement

In one week in December, two separate sexual harassment investigations surfaced in Hartford’s city government, ensnaring the council president and a council aide in perhaps the biggest movement of 2017.

The allegations that City Council President Thomas “TJ” Clarke II sent inappropriate text messages to a council assistant last June and that aide Kelly Kirkley-Bey inappropriately touched a supervisor in February were all too familiar in the midst of the #MeToo campaign — a barrage of social media posts shared since October denouncing sexual assault and harassment.

The phrase originated years ago with social activist Tarana Burke and was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano. In the wake of rape and misconduct allegations against film executive Harvey Weinstein, Milano encouraged women to Tweet the words “Me Too” to demonstrate the scope of misconduct and misogyny.

By early November, #MeToo had been Tweeted 2.3 million times and shared in more than 77 million posts or comments on Facebook, according to The Daily Beast. And, by mid-December, a continuous wave of allegations had unseated nearly 100 men from positions of power and high regard, including actors Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, comedian Louis C.K., talk show hosts Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, music mogul Russell Simmons, and on and on.

Restaurateur Mario Batali, of the Tarry Lodge locations in Westport and New Haven, stepped away from daily operations at his businesses after website Eater New York reported allegations he grabbed at least three female employees.

As for Clarke and Kirkley-Bey, both remain in their jobs, though Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has said he does not think Clarke should be allowed to remain in his position, and city attorney Howard Rifkin has recommended the immediate termination of Kirkley-Bey.

Complaints have been filed against both with the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

The Courant also found that Clarke had been cited for inappropriate touching in 2013, while he was working for Mayor Pedro Segarra.

Not all targets of the #MeToo movement have been made public.

Many Connecticut women shared their own personal accounts of sexual assault, childhood molestation, workplace harassment and misconduct. The stories told of men yelling catcalls on the street, groping without permission in clubs and exposing themselves seemingly any time and any place.

The #MeToo writers said they were inspired by the bravery of those who spoke up first and the ignorance of others who doubted them; by the swift falls from grace of so many men; and by the continued denials of misconduct by others, including President Donald Trump and Alabama Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore.

In an Op-Ed to The Courant, University of New Haven professor Susan Campbell responded to accusations against Moore by revealing that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather. Campbell wrote, “So many of us are the sad recipients of the business end of the patriarchy, victims of a continuum of crimes that run from harassment to violent assault and back again. ... Maybe they'll believe now.”

In an essay on The Players’ Tribune, former UConn basketball All-America Breanna Stewart revealed that she was molested as a child.

Her Tweet about the essay was shared more than 6,700 times: “There is no easy way to tell you,” she wrote. “But it’s time.”

In the essay, she said she’d felt less alone when she read Olympian gymnast McKayla Maroney’s account of sexual abuse.

“Maybe that’s the point,” Stewart wrote. “Our experiences are different. How we cope is different. But our voices matter.”

While primarily the domain of women and others who don’t identify as male, the #MeToo campaign also spoke to some men, like Trinity College student K.S.S. Motsoeneng, who deleted his story of college sexual assault after receiving backlash from followers.

In response to the “Me Too” movement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has ordered a review of the state’s policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment prevention training within executive branch agencies.

The state Department of Administrative Services will determine whether state agencies are in compliance with training that is mandated by law and offer recommendations on whether the training can be improved and whether such training should be extended to all state workers, including interns and seasonal employees.

A report on the findings is due on the governor’s desk by Feb. 1.

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