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Advocates for sexual assault victims say Weinstein conviction is encouraging but not the norm for assault cases

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Harvey Weinstein is expecting up to 29 years in prison after a jury convicted him for raping and sexually assaulting two women.

It's a landmark moment for the #MeToo movement which the Weinstein allegations helped spark, but crisis counselors say it shows the country still has a long way to go, when it comes to preventing sexual assault and advocating for victims.

According to Janet Hyde, a women and gender studies professor at UW-Madison, the biggest takeaway from this case is that no one is above the law.

"I think it's a victory," she said. "It showed that a really powerful person could be convicted."

Hyde said the impact could be felt outside of Hollywood as well. In the roughly three years since its profile rose, she said the #MeToo movement has changed the way people and companies look at sexual misconduct.

"It puts a lot of businesses on notice that they don't want to have executives in their employ, who do this kind of behavior," she said.

At the Rape Crisis Center in Dane County, Erin Thornley Parisi, said she's noticed the impact as well.

"We are busier than we've ever been before because more people are feeling empowered to come out and talk," she said.

Though for Thornley Parisi, it's been a double-edged sword. While some victims and survivors have felt more encouraged to reach out, others have felt triggered by the number of sexual assault stories in the headlines.

On top of tha,t she said not all cases have outcomes like Weinstein's. In fact, Thornley Parisi said most people who call have a very different story.

"Sometimes what they say is 'I'm not a Hollywood movie star so I wish my case had moved forward like that,'" she said.

Thornley Parisi said you can even look at Weinstein's case, despite the evidence and number of women who came forward, he was acquitted of three of his most serious charges.

"I am glad that they had their day in court and at least some of the charges stuck," she said. "I think we're always just a little bit leery to throw the book at someone."

Still, whether survivors are looking for justice, resources or simply someone to listen to them, Thornley Parisi said crisis centers are doing what they can.

"We just want to make sure that everybody knows all of their options and from there that we can support them through those options," she said.

Thornley Parisi said one of the biggest steps Wisconsin needs to take to address sexual assault is to clear the state's rape kit backlog.

Bipartisan legislation to prevent future backlogs passed the state Senate unanimously in October but failed to make it out of the state Assembly in February.

If you or someone you know has experienced a sexual assault, the Rape Crisis Center operates a 24-hour helpline: 608-251-7273.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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