In the wake of the revelation that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has sexually harassed and assaulted women for decades, a social media trend soon emerged, prompted by actress Alyssa Milano: asking women to say “me too” if they have suffered sexual abuse or harassment. The idea took off, with hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of women sharing that they, too, had been sexually harassed or assaulted with the hashtag #metoo. Notably, this campaign was originally started more than ten years again by activist Tarana Burke, long before hashtags existed.
The #MeToo campaign represented a powerful moment in America, where a groundswell of victims (primarily women) stood up to help others (primarily men) understand the depth of the problem. The idea behind the movement is to get people to understand that sexual assault and harassment are not isolated incidents, and that they happen to most women at some point in their lives — in fact, they happen to many women multiple times, and often starting at a very young age.
The #MeToo campaign certainly achieved its goal of raising awareness of just how pervasive sexual harassment and assault are in our culture. Yet it did so at the expense of victims of sexual violence. By putting pressure on victims to speak out about their experience, the campaign took the burden of solving the problem off of the perpetrators. Rather than men being shocked by the Weinstein allegations and starting a conversation about how they can change their behavior to end rape culture, the burden was put on women to make their personal stories public to shock men into action. It continues to frame sexual violence as a women’s issue, and one that women have to fix.
Perhaps more importantly, it is unfair to expect any victim of sexual violence to share her or his story as part of a social media campaign. Raising awareness is a laudable goal, but it is not more important than the health, safety and well-being of victims. Saying #MeToo can be cathartic for some victims — but it can also make a victim feel incredibly vulnerable. It is great if you want to join in and say #MeToo — but it is more than OK if you choose to sit this one out.
These conversations are important to have, but they can raise difficult issues for many victims of sexual violence. If you would like to talk to someone, we are always here to help. Contact us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 or 724-836-1122 to speak to someone today.