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After Weinstein sentencing, Tarana Burke on what's next for the #MeToo movement

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Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — When #MeToo founder Tarana Burke heard Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape, the women’s rights activist said she was “shocked” and “relieved.”

Burke had prepared herself for the possibility that Weinstein, who was acquitted of charges for predatory sexual assault and of rape in the first degree, would walk out of the courtroom a free man.

After checking in with survivors to make sure they were OK, Burke allowed herself to reflect on the monumental verdict.

“I wasn’t disappointed in the sense that I thought that that was going to happen,” she told Good Morning America. “I knew, going in, when you look at the charges, the time that had passed and all these different circumstances, I knew it was going to be difficult.”

As the #MeToo movement has gained momentum in the past three years, Burke has seen incredible growth and support from survivors and allies across the nation.

“Being able to scale up the work that we started in small grassroots communities and then the urban communities in Philadelphia — and rural communities and Alabama, to national and international levels — is just incredible,” she said.

Burke is now hoping to “take advantage of this moment while people are paying attention” to increase activism, create a cultural shift and restructure the way the new generation learns about sexual violence.

What the Weinstein verdict means for survivors

More than 100 women publicly accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, and six testified at his trial. Still, the landmark verdict held personal significance for many survivors — not just Weinstein’s victims.

“So many women reached out to me through social media, email and other ways to say this verdict felt like a personal victory for them because they won’t ever see their day in court, because they’ll never face their perpetrator,” Burke said. “Those are people that we can’t forget.”

It also spurred more survivors to seek help. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s National Sexual Assault Hotline had a 23% increase in call volume after the Weinstein verdict was announced; the organization reports that an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds.

“The information that people in mainstream, people across the world, really have received around sexual violence for 20 and 30 years through mainstream media is [that] a victim looks like this, acts like this or behaves like this — and it’s like black and white, cut and dry,” Burke said. “And we know that that’s not the reality of sexual violence.”

Burke says the mission of the #MeToo movement is so important because of the need to “keep amplifying the voice of the survivors who don’t often get spotlight, who don’t often get attention and don’t see any recourse for the harm they experience.”

In recent years more states have extended the statue of limitations in sexual abuse cases, giving victims more time to report.

New York extended the time frame for reporting second-degree rape from five years to 20 years, and third-degree rape from five years to 10 years in 2019. California, New Jersey, Alabama and Arizona are among the states that have changed laws recently to help victims of sexual abuse.

Burke said statue of limitations across the United States are “expanding and giving people more time and space. … That’s directly connected to understanding how sexual violence manifests in the life of a survivor.”

“Many people have memories that come back later, or they have to get over the shame of it. … There are a number of reasons why people don’t report right away,” she added.

Along with changes in legislation, Burke believes there is a need for an important cultural shift. “It would be wonderful to see more ways that we can hold people accountable outside of the criminal justice system as we move forward,” she said.

“The narrowness of the law does not cover the breadth and the depth of what sexual violence does to a person,” she continued. “Putting somebody in jail is almost like shorthand — it’s the quickest remedy we have available. People use it and should use it … but I think more so than laws changing, I want to see culture shift, so that we think about and have a sense of accountability existing for everyday people.”

“Most survivors won’t see the inside of a courtroom,” she added. “They won’t go through a process that goes all the way to trial.”

She said during this time, she hopes followers of #MeToo are “thinking broader than just jury trials and convicting individuals,” and focusing on “the systems that are in place that allow those individuals to get away with these acts of horror.”

Burke on the direction #MeToo is heading

Reflecting on the movement, which was started by Burke in 2006 and surged to prominence when the Weinstein allegations were revealed in 2017, the founder says the last two years have been “incredibly significant.”

Her impact has also inspired others. In the wake of the Weinstein allegations, women in Hollywood, including Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman and Kerry Washington among many others, became founding members of TIME’S UP, a group dedicated to eradicating sexual harassment and women’s causes, including equal pay and maternity leave.

The group credits Burke for being one of its founding inspirations.

“We are incredibly grateful for Tarana Burke’s strength, lifelong activism, and clarity of vision,” Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the TIME’S UP Foundation, said in a statement. “In fact, TIME’S UP simply would not exist without Burke’s simple but powerful call to action: ‘me too.'”

“We are honored to do our part to create a world where work is safe, fair, and dignified for all — and we do this right alongside Tarana Burke and the ‘me too’ movement’s work on behalf of all survivors,” Tchen’s statement continued.

Burke said she hopes people are “emboldened” by the verdict of the Weinstein case — but also realizes that there are “other ways to impact this movement,” and help survivors.

Burke supports policy and structural changes, including campaigning for the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, protecting Title IX to ensure it will be “useful for survivors of sexual violence on college campuses,” and integrating comprehensive sex education in school systems, among other changes.

She said these will affect “the bottom line about how much sexual violence people will experience in the country and what recourse survivors have, if they do experience harassment, or abuse or violence.”

The group’s new initiative, #MeTooVoter, was born out of its desire to mobilize supporters of the movement into political advocacy, which has been largely supported by survivors, allies and advocates of #MeToo.

“People want to be active and want to know how they can lend their support to #MeToo and make a tangible outcome,” Burke said about the political push.

“It’s important that we are thinking about how we have to both shift culture, change the narrative, get new policies and get leadership in place that prioritizes all of these things,” she added.

#MeToo’s influence on a new generation

Burke said to ensure the next generation has new ideas about gender roles and sexuality, we need to “change the way people talk about process, [and] understand sexual violence and survivorship.” The key lies in redefining sexual education, according to Burke.

“We have to get comprehensive sex education across the country, a unified sort of curriculum, so that young people are learning about boundaries and consent, respect, gender and sexuality from K to 12,” she shared. “That’s the way that we really honestly impact and shift culture.”

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and/or HIV education, according to data published in February 2020 by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on examining sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Burke said she’s heard positive feedback from parents as a result of the #MeToo movement, as many are hoping to educate their children about consent.

“We have lots of parents, mothers of sons, who reach out and talk about the way that they want to raise their sons differently about boundaries and respect early on and have a consent conversation, even if the school is not having it,” she shared.

“And I hope it’s not just boys; I hope it’s parents of children of all genders that are thinking about how to arm their children with information and how to socialize or resocialize them away from the ways that we were socialized coming up,” she added.

She acknowledged that there are many people who will not be activists or work for the movement, but those same people need the same education.

“Those are the same people who will be jurors, who will be doctors, who will be people who make decisions about the lives of survivors,” she explained.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prison whistleblower who exposed unsafe conditions in Arizona facility, found dead

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MoreISO/iStock(BUCKEYE, Ariz.) — An Arizona correctional sergeant who blew the whistle on corruption and unsafe conditions inside a jail facility was found dead in an apparent suicide, officials confirmed to ABC News.

Gabriela Contreras risked her position at the former Lewis Corrections Department in Buckeye last April when she leaked surveillance videos that revealed multiple jail units had cell doors that did not lock properly.

Contreras initially turned over the videos and altered documentation regarding the broken locks anonymously, but came forward in an exclusive interview with ABC15 a month later.

The whistleblower was suspended for a week when she was caught downloading the videos.

“I had enough,” Contreras said during the May 2019 interview when asked why she downloaded and leaked the footage. “Because it’s a crime, what they were doing: allowing this to happen, allowing staff to get hurt, and not doing anything about it.”

Contreras also wrote to Gov. Doug Ducey on May 15, 2019 after his office launched an investigation. The jail staffers were asked by the governor’s office to make comprehensive reports about each broken cell door, but were forced to make modifications to those documents by their superior.

“The deputy warden was outraged that we reported all of the deficiencies we found,” Contreras wrote. “He told us that we were only to count the cell doors that opened on their own when the padlock was removed — and that we should not have included cell doors that opened with a slight juggle or push or be caused to register an Unauthorized Access alert on the computer on this report.”

Contreras warned the governor that the deputy warden was trying to minimize or “present his office with false and/or misleading information and falsifying public records,” she wrote.

Because of Contreras’ fight, over 1,000 cell doors were repaired and replaced, the prison took on new leadership and was renamed the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

During the late evening of March 8, Goodyear Police Department responded to a “domestic disturbance” call at Contreras’ home. When the officers entered her residence, Contreras was in her bedroom “unresponsive, with an apparent self-inflicted gun-shot wound,” according to a spokeswoman with the police department.

Despite “lifesaving measures” taken, Contreras was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The Goodyear Police Department considers this a suicide and next of kin has been notified,” the spokeswoman said.

The Maricopa County’s Medical Examiner’s office ruled Contreras’ manner of death as a suicide caused by a “gunshot wound of head,” according to online records.

“Our beloved friend Gabriela Contreras was taken too soon … a loving and caring mother, daughter, and friend. A passionate person who was not afraid to stand for what she believed in,” wrote a family friend on an online funeral fundraiser page.

Attempts to reach the family of Contreras were not successful on Wednesday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Police issue warning over spray sanitizer sold at 7-Eleven that burned child

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River Vale Police Dept.(RIVER VALE, N.J.) — As shoppers look for products to stay healthy amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, police have issued a new warning for a certain spray sanitizer.

The owner of a 7-Eleven store in New Jersey was arrested after police said he sold a spray sanitizer that reportedly burned a child.

The River Vale Police Department first responded to the situation on Monday evening, after officials said they saw photos on social media of “a young boy with apparent burns to his arm and leg.”

“While further investigation is underway, our first priority is to make the public aware that they should not use this item if they purchased it at the River Vale 7-Eleven,” Lt. John DeVoe said in a statement. “As far as we know, this issue is limited to the River Vale store at this time. From the information that we received, approximately one dozen of the bottles were sold to customers today.”

Manisha Bharade was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and deceptive business practices, according to ABC News New York station WABC.

The 10-year-old was treated at a nearby hospital and released, and is expected to make a full recovery, according to WABC. Three more kids who were with him and used the product had less severe burns that didn’t require hospitalization.

Responding officers seized the remaining bottles. DeVoe said the store is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, and he doesn’t believe there was malicious intent.

“I think that the parents need to be diligent to make sure that we’re using only products that are sanctioned and sold under a consumer product,” he explained. “The last thing we want to do is to start buying into panic and creating our own type of sanitizers from compounds that we don’t know what they contain. That’s when the danger occurs. That’s when the compounds and mix and have a negative reaction, which is likely what occurred in this scenario.”

Police did not provide any further information about the product manufacturer or its origins.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Despite COVID-19, the ACM Awards will go on, says Academy

No Comments Country Music News

The Academy of Country MusicThe 2020 ACM Awards are scheduled to take place on April 5 — and according to a new statement, the show will go on.

While the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has caused a number of events, tours and festivals in country music and beyond to be canceled or postponed, the Academy says the awards telecast will proceed as scheduled, though it’s keeping a close eye on the spread of the virus. 

“We are closely monitoring the situation along with the MGM team, who are in continuous contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Southern Nevada Health District and other agencies and experts for guidance,” the statement explains.

“We will take every precaution to ensure the safety of our artists, staff, crew, guests and attendees.”

The statement was issued on Wednesday, the same day that the Academy announced the lineup of performers scheduled to take the stage during the show. Miranda Lambert is one of the stars who’ll perform at this year’s ACMs; show host Keith Urban will also take the stage.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. 

CMT’s Nashville building closes after telethon-goer was diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus

No Comments Country Music News

CMTCMT’s downtown Nashville building was closed for cleaning Tuesday after it was learned that someone who attended last week’s Rebuilding Nashville telethon was diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The building is scheduled to reopen Wednesday morning, Billboard reports. 

The telethon was organized to raise money for relief efforts after the deadly tornadoes that hit Nashville and Middle Tennessee on March 3. Several country stars and others worked the CMT telethon phone lines, including Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood and Charles KelleyBlanco BrownTravis DenningDevin DawsonCassadee PopeKalie ShorrGavin DeGraw, and Whitney Duncan

After learning that an “external attendee” visited the event prior to being diagnosed, CMT immediately closed the building for cleaning and required that team members who’d attended the fundraiser work from home for two weeks, a spokesperson reports.

The country music industry has also seen a number of canceled events and festivals amid concerns about the spread of the virus.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. 

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