Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has swept the nation. While #MeToo began with Tarana Burke, it exploded in prominence after Hollywood actresses began calling out predators in the industry in fall 2017. Yet sexual harassment and abuse are not limited to the film industry or power players in politics, sports or business.
In southwestern Pennsylvania, we know that gender-based violence is a real problem for thousands of women right here in our community. The #MeToo movement has had an impact on the number of women seeking help from our organization. It may have also had an effect on how men in our area view this type of violence, by exposing the scope and scale of the problem.
Recently, Southwest PA Says No More launched a project to discover what local men think about #MeToo. Between September 24 and 29, Change Research conducted a poll of more than 1,300 men, including 671 in a 10-county area of Southwestern Pennsylvania and 633 nationally.
According to the report:
81% of men in southwest PA say that it is important to believe women who speak up about their experiences with harassment and abuse;
77% believe that “expectations for men’s behavior towards women have changed;” and
38% of men are willing to intervene if they witness or find out about abuse or sexual harassment.
For men in southwest PA, domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment are a personal issue. Most men — 74% — either have been victims of this type of violence or are close to someone who has been a victim. 89% of men surveyed agree that they have a role to play in preventing violence and harassment against women.
Yet despite acknowledging the frequency of victimization, 51% of men surveyed are concerned that the #MeToo movement has gone or will go overboard. 54% of men say that we should tend to be skeptical of allegations, and wait for hard evidence that abuse or harassment occurred.
At the same time, 84% of men support action at the local or community level to prevent abuse or harassment. 90% believe that schools, law enforcement and business leaders should do more to prevent abuse and harassment. 81% of men support more awareness around how to report abusive behavior in the workplace.
While most men acknowledge that harassment and abuse are common experiences for women and that it is important to believe women, many men surveyed are wary of the #MeToo movement. However, the men surveyed were generally supportive of steps that can be implemented in schools and workplaces to change cultures of abuse and harassment. The full report is available for review here
Men can and should play a significant role in ending gender-based violence. This can include (but is not limited to):
Speaking out against sexism and misogyny, which can be as simple as saying “That’s not cool,” or replying with, “I don’t get it. Why is that funny?” to a sexist joke.
Talking to other men in your life, including young men, about healthy manhood and respect for women.
Offering support for victims.
Joining Blackburn Center’s Fearless Advocacy for Men’s Engagement (FAME) group
We know that men in our area believe victims — and that they want to be part of the change. By working together, we can help end to sexual violence in our community.