And yet, Carroll’s great power is that she is not going away. While it’s frustrating to see Trump so repeatedly and consistently skirt the accountability processes for sexual-assault accusations, Carroll’s story still has power. Speaking on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by The Atlantic, the National Women’s Law Center president and CEO Fatima Goss Graves said that one of the legacies of Donald Trump will be the way his presidency brought conversations about assault and harassment into the light. Without the Access Hollywood tape, Graves said, #MeToo might not have gone viral in the same way. Every time Trump resorts to old tropes about sexual violence, it sparks a massive outpouring of people sharing their own stories. What people such as Trump would really like, Graves said, “is for all of these stories to go away, and for it to be so hard for individuals going forward [to accuse people] that they don’t tell.” Yet every woman who comes forward publicly ends up having the opposite effect.
Two years in, even as allegations about harassment, abuse, and assault keep surfacing, the #MeToo movement has had a tangible impact, Graves said. One major example is the alliance it’s forged between women with power and privilege and women in sectors that don’t afford them the same protections, such as domestic workers and farmworkers. Another is to what extent #MeToo still occupies the national imagination. Two weeks after #MeToo went viral in 2017, Graves was getting phone calls from reporters asking whether the movement had peaked, or whether it had gone too far. “I thought, We haven’t even gotten started yet,” she said. “People are still grappling with stories and experiences that feel so deeply personal.”