Courtesy of KMIR
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, more and more people are coming forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted on October 15th, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Since this message, “me too” has become a powerful rallying cry through which people are regaining their voices. This tweet revitalized a movement that started nearly 10 years ago, but has since gained traction with the recent coverage.
This tweet went viral, with people responding with the hashtag “#MeToo” and their stories of sexual assault. Not only did women responded to this, but many men shared their stories. One man tweeted “Me too. I don’t know if [it] means anything coming from a gay man, but it’s happened. Multiple times.” Another user tweeted, “Because I was ashamed and considered a ‘party girl’, I felt I deserved it. I shouldn’t have been there, I shouldn’t have been ‘bad’ #MeToo”. It’s become abundantly clear that this is an issue that affects everyone, whether you have been a victim of sexual assault or not. According to CNN, 45% of people on Facebook are friends with someone who has used this hashtag, which means that most people know someone who has been a victim of sexual harassment or assault.
L.A. writer, Alexis Benveniste said, “Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.”
A few things need to be made clear about consent, which can confuse some people. The first is that no, does, in fact, mean no. If someone appears unsure if they want to engage in any kind of sexual activity, if consent has not been clearly given, then back off. Second, if a person is drunk, they most likely cannot give proper consent. Third, if someone is dressing in a revealing way, this does not mean that they want someone’s sexual advances. If you’re unsure if someone has consented to something, just ask. Being clear and making sure you and your partner are on the same page is vital.
Milano said that she started this in order to show the magnitude of the issue and that she hoped this would spark a change. It seems this hashtag has had some effect as well, as more and more people have been coming out with their stories, showing support for other victims. The strength of the ones who shared their stories inspired others to do the same, to show victims of sexual assault that they are not alone.
With more than 40 women coming out with allegations against Weinstein, it is important to remember that his behavior is not uncommon. He represents a larger problem that this hashtag aims to shed light on; sexual assault is an issue that most people have or will have to deal with, and it spreads across industries where people are told to keep quiet about it. Many are afraid to come forward with their stories, especially if their abuser is in a position of power or influence.
The creator of the hashtag, Tarana Burke, said “she’d like to see conversations about what healing looks like. She wants sexual violence or gender-based violence approached as social justice issues.”
Perhaps one of the reasons this MeToo movement has been so widespread and effective is because it is not a call to arms or change, but instead, is being used to highlight a problem.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can get help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. If you want more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.