One year after Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in high school, two years after investigative journalists published the accounts of women who’d been harassed and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, three years after Roger Ailes stepped down as head of Fox News after being accused of harassment and coercion by women on his network, and 28 years after Anita Hill testified about the harassment she experienced working alongside Clarence Thomas, the women and men who came forward about sexual assault and harassment tell New York Magazine about what happened to them in the months, years, and decades since, and whether speaking out was worth it. Though many prominent men who have been #MeToo-ed have discussed the ways in which they’ve been negatively impacted by accusations of assault, New York’s reporting finds that the trauma experienced by the people who’ve come forward to report them is often ignored — some have lost their jobs, some have incurred debt, some have lost friends and family. With an introductory essay by New York writer-at-large Rebecca Traister, and reporting by senior correspondent Irin Carmon and contributor Amelia Schonbek, New York’s September 30–October 13, 2019, issue’s cover story looks at the toll of speaking out.
Schonbek and Carmon began their reporting by researching the details of dozens of cases, from the best known to the often forgotten. One by one, they contacted people who had come forward and asked whether they’d be interested in talking about everything that followed their decision to speak out. “In our interviews, the stories often tumbled out quickly, as if the speakers had been waiting a long time for a journalist to ask them about something other than the details of the harassment or assault that men had inflicted on them,” says Schonbek, who added that she was struck by how much of what the subjects said went against the dominant narrative of what motivates people to speak out about sexual misconduct. “None of them made the decision lightly; none of them were excited about becoming public figures,” she says. “Many of them said they made the decision to speak publicly only when it became clear that the story was larger than them. They spoke out not for their own sake but to try and protect future victims.”
“As journalists, we tend to congratulate ourselves for our heroic role in exposing wrongdoing — the barriers we overcame, how dogged we were in getting to the truth,” adds Carmon. “But it’s really the sources who put themselves on the line, who lose control over their own narrative and have to pick up the pieces of their lives after the headlines fade. That was what we wanted to get at here.”