We are now many months into the #MeToo movement. It remains to be seen whether the movement will lead to the kind of institutional change that works in the long term to prevent sexual harassment. But there can be no doubt that the public at large is now far more aware of how common sexual harassment is and how easy it has been for abusive men to get away with this behavior. But while that’s a positive change, it’s also becoming clear that there are still some widespread misconceptions about what sexual harassment is and what motivates harassers — and these misconceptions are preventing some victims from getting justice.
A prime example comes from the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled against a sexual harassment complaint in early April on the grounds that the pervasive harassment the victim experienced didn’t count because the harasser didn’t actually want to have sex with the victim. It’s a reminder that far too many people still think of “sexual harassment” as a form of aggressive flirting, instead of as what it actually is, which is harassment that uses sex as a weapon.
The details of the case should have made this lawsuit a slam dunk for the victim. Catherine Clark was a athletic coach in a San Antonio school district, who alleges she was targeted by another coach, Ann Monterrubio, with endless amounts of sexualized bullying. As Lisa Needham at Rewire explains, Clark has said that “Monterrubio repeatedly commented on the size of Clark’s breasts and made vulgar comments about Clark’s genitalia” and “Monterrubio also informed Clark that she would think of Clark when she was having sex and speculated about Clark’s sexual habits.” Monterrubio and another coach, Michelle Boyer, also allegedly groped Clark during a photo shoot.