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2018 was a year of support and setbacks for #MeToo movement

Over the last year, so much attention has been captivated by the #MeToo movement and its consequences -- a cultural shift led by survivors telling their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Amna Nawaz sits down with Katherine Kendall, Lili Bernard and Abby Bolt to discuss what the past year has meant for them.

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  • William Brangham:

    But first: This was a year where the MeToo movement and the consequences it triggered captivated so much of our attention.

    Whether it was in the entertainment and media, the business world or the more general workplace, women came forward in record numbers to tell the story of what they have faced.

    Tonight, we wanted to put more of a focus on what survivors and victims have been through and what this past year has meant to them.

    Amna Nawaz has our conversation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The cultural shift is palpable. In just the past year, several states have introduced legislation to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. Congress finally moved to change a system for reporting harassment on Capitol Hill.

    And, of course, some of the most powerful and notable men in Hollywood and media have been forced out of their jobs.

    We're joined now by three women who came forward with their own experiences. All have appeared on our program before.

    Katherine Kendall is one of the first women to break the silence around Harvey Weinstein's behavior and abuse. An actress, Kendall alleges that Weinstein invited her to his New York apartment back when she was 23 years old, took off his clothes, asked for a massage, chased her, and refused to let her leave the room.

    Lili Bernard is one of more than 60 women who said Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them. After meeting Cosby and preparing for an appearance on his show in the '90s, Lili said Cosby drugged and raped her. She attended his retrial and criminal sentencing on sexual assault this year.

    And Forest Service Battalion Chief Abby Bolt was raped on assignment in 2012 by another firefighter. She reported the incident to police, but said she feared retaliation inside the Forest Service. The "NewsHour" published an extensive investigation about Abby and other women, looking at the agency's record on sexual harassment and assault.

    Welcome to you all. Thank you for being here.

    And, Lili, I want to start with you.

    This year marked an incredible shift in just how we talk about these things that are captured under this MeToo umbrella.

    I'm just curious, what has it been like for you over the past year, as you have gone from someone who wasn't believed for so long to where we are now?

  • Lili Bernard:

    Yes, it was an amazing year, 2018.

    And it really began a couple of years before several of my Cosby survivor sisters and I, along with other rape survivors, led by Caroline Heldman, we worked together. We campaigned in lobbied and abolished the statute of limitations in our state of California.

    The law went into effect on January 1, 2017. But the same week that my rapist was incarcerated, we had a Supreme Court justice nominee, Kavanaugh, face to face in a hearing with an accuser, a woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, accusing him of having sexually assaulted her.

    And that all happened in the same week. Unfortunately, Kavanaugh was still nominated. It was an amazing set of occurrences.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Katherine Kendall, what about you? Lili raises an interesting point there about, for all the progress some will say has been made, for all the conversations we're having now, there is still progress to be made.

    What was this last year like for you?

  • Katherine Kendall:

    Yes, it's been — she did bring up an interesting point and a great point.

    It's been — it's fits and bursts. And I think, like anything, growth is like that. And it's confusing, because there's these huge celebrations, and then these painful setbacks.

    But I think the good thing that happened with the Kavanaugh hearings is that it — more women came forward. More women were able to remember things that traumatized them. And, with trauma, we put things away and kind of let it — we don't even know it's there. We have the ability to kind of forget.

    And it's healthy for it to come out and have a chance to get resolved.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Abby, your experience sort of reminds us that the appalling statistics that are driving these conversations, these don't really happen around celebrities, or even largely celebrities. It's people we know. It's neighbors, colleagues, intimate partners in many cases.

    Tell me what's changed in your circles over the last year.

  • Abby Bolt:

    Yes, I represent kind of a different side of things.

    I'm a federal employee, and I'm a firefighter. And that's a whole other different type of a world with a male-dominated career. And I realized, ever since — I have been in this now almost 22 years, and I have been blacklisted by people since my very first year, when I was just 19 years old and wanted to just — all I did was bring forward that things needed to improve at a very low level.

    And, from that time on, I have had somebody that reached out and made sure to ruin career moves for me and jobs for me. So that's been going on for a really long time. But the more that I have come out about this, the more — I mean, just the social media groups that I have, Wildfire Women, and then other employee groups, and now I'm hearing from people all across the country, just really quiet to the Hollywood world, no-name people, that are really living just a little silent nightmare.

    And they just want to get by and provide for their family, and they're terrified to speak out. But I'm amazed at how many now are coming forward, and at least feeling strong enough to stick up for themselves. Even if they don't do anything officially, they're standing up for themselves and, more importantly, for others.

    Bystanders are standing up for other people. And I feel like, the more — more strength for that is coming out. And that's just — it takes my breath away every time.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Abby, tell me more about that.

    Since you decided to speak out, have you heard from other women who felt like they couldn't for so long, and now feel like they can?

  • Abby Bolt:

    Both.

    I hear from women that feel like they couldn't for so long. I mean, just this — just this last week, two different women in two completely different states reached out to me looking for help and an advocate. And all I can do is, like a silent underground support and advocacy, just helping them navigate the situation.

    One has nearly 30 years in firefighting, the other one her very first year. And both of them are lost in the system. And it's not just in fire for us. It's for — it's in all disciplines of federal agencies. And I have worked mostly with the land management ones, but these male-dominated agencies out there, and they're struggling.

    And it's not just the women, though. We're talking about the MeToo and sexual harassment and assault, but I'm talking about and I'm standing up for anybody who is either under-represented or undersupported. And they just want to stand up for the right thing, whether it's themselves or for someone else that they work with, and finding them more support.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lili Bernard, you mentioned at one point getting hate mail. Is that still the case? Do you still get pushback?

  • Lili Bernard:

    Oh, yes, I get hate mail often. And I also was attacked in person at the Cosby — at the Cosby first trial in 2017, at the Cosby retrial, at the Cosby sentencing hearing, both in 2018.

    And we have very good reason to believe that these were actual hired shills of Bill Cosby's camp who were attacking us physically and verbally. There's a lot of video footage of that.

    When I attended the Cosby retrial in April of 2018, one of the big differences that helped to render a guilty verdict, as opposed to a hung jury the previous year, was that their very first witness — excuse me — the very first witness that the prosecution brought on was a forensic psychiatry, a speciality witness.

    And she educated the jury that the majority of rapes, over 85 percent of them, according to federal statistics, are perpetrated by people whom you know. Since most rapes are perpetrated by people we know, that really complicates coming out even more, because you have this cognitive dissonance. You want to make it right. You tend to want to protect the perpetrator.

    And, therefore, that lends to only less than 2 percent of rapists ever seeing a day behind prison walls. The fact that Bill Cosby, America's dad, is now behind the walls of a state penitentiary is astronomical, because if less than 2 percent of rapists are ever convicted, and now we have got ones that are protected by their fame, by their fortune, who are actually being held accountable, that just shows that there's been this tremendous shift in rape culture towards finally believing women.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Katherine, I want to ask you about that.

    And it's worth reminding people you were one of the first to come out and share your story, speak out about Harvey Weinstein, a very powerful man.

    I wonder if you can tell us about what it took to come to that place and also if there's ever been a moment that you have regretted doing that.

  • Katherine Kendall:

    Well, I can say that I have not regretted it for one second.

    But a year-and-a-half ago, right before I sort of met Jodi Kantor, and was going to tell my story, I really sat and thought hard about it. I mean, it wasn't an easy thing to do. It was — it was unthinkable at first, and to put myself out there, to speak about a powerful man in such a way, to have my name put into social media in a way that people could just rake me through the coals and say whatever they wanted.

    We — I knew we were in a culture that didn't support what I was going to be talking about. Otherwise, I would have talked about it a long time ago. So that makes me think too what a miracle it is that we're as far as we are right now. I just — I never thought I would see the day.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Katherine, tell me more about that. We are obviously at the end of a year now when there have been so many more, headline after headline about some of the change that's happened, and an acknowledgement of some change that is still yet to come.

    Where are you personally? Are you hopeful about what the future holds?

  • Katherine Kendall:

    I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful.

    I am taking a stand on the hopeful side because I see — because I see how far we have come. And I believe that there was no road before. There was no path. We are making one now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lili Bernard, what about you? Do you share that hope?

  • Lili Bernard:

    I do.

    And I also want to say that what Katherine said about the impact that we have upon the general public or even our family and friends, in terms of speaking out, is really critical.

    This crosses socioeconomic boundaries and cultures. I have had white men in England send me e-mails saying, how I helped to empower them come up against the priests who sodomized them when they were children. So that's a very important and powerful thing that we're doing, as well as changing laws.

    But I am hopeful. And you just got to keep persevering and speaking out.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Abby Bolt, what do you make of this? Where are you?

  • Abby Bolt:

    You know, constantly, I'm hearing from people saying, like — reporting it doesn't work, or I have gone down this road, it hasn't happened. And I hate hearing that what we have done the past won't happen, won't work in the future.

    Like they were saying, I'm very positive. And, you know, I was terrified to speak out about my assault, terrified because I didn't want to hurt a whole group of people. Like, firefighting is kind of like the movie industry. We're just — we're on a different parallel, and that there's a whole — it's a very small world.

    And once I did come out, all those people that I was working with that I was terrified would judge me or would doubt me all reached out to me with support. And unlike a lot of people, like these two ladies here, who have really gotten knocked down because of their speaking out, I have found so much support from colleagues and the public.

    And I really appreciate that. If I had known that many people were going to stand next to me when I spoke out, I think I probably would have done it a lot sooner. But, definitely, as far as the support from the agency, the lack that I'm getting and the harassment that I have received since I have, that has been really discouraging.

    I'm definitely getting it from peers and supporters, but the agency just — the federal agencies don't know what to do when this is happening on the inside.

    I reported — when you guys talked to me, and I found trust in you, and I finally spoke out, I was terrified because of — I was afraid that the agency was going to then reach out to me and launch this whole investigation, and at least want to have some answers or find out who it was that assaulted me.

    And, actually, they went silent, my agency has never, once they saw me on national news, say that I had been raped. They never even have reached out to me to ask me if I'm OK. And that still scares the heck out of me.

    So, I know there needs to be some changes, but I am really positive about them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A lot of work yet to be done.

    Katherine Kendall, Lili Bernard, and Abby Bolt, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

  • Abby Bolt:

    Thank you.

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