Brooklyn Law Review


JoAnne Sweeny


One of the most well-reported consequences of the #MeToo movement is the ramifications it has had for powerful men accused of engaging in sexual assault or harassment. As part of telling their stories, women (and some men) named their abusers, leading, in some cases, to their alleged abusers suffering legal repercussions. But, much more commonly, legal repercussions never follow, often due to the expiration of the statute of limitations for the crimes committed by the abuser. Instead, social or employment consequences were the only negative impact felt by these abusers. Still, the backlash against #MeToo includes the complaint that these men were being punished outside the law and, therefore, without due process. #MeToo has been accused of being a vigilante movement, though one that arose out of a legal system that is unable or unwilling to prosecute these men for their criminal acts. #MeToo has also experienced a backlash like many vigilante movements, as well as retribution from those it exposes. This article examines vigilantism generally, and social media vigilantism specifically, to determine whether #MeToo should be characterized as a vigilante movement and, if so how #MeToo can escape the backlash to propel stable and systemic legal change going forward.