November 18, 2017

Webster students reflect on experiences involving #MeToo social media trend

Student referenced as Kat asked to be referred to by her first name only for personal safety reasons.

Webster student Kat got high in the backseat of a car in a Macy’s parking lot. There, she was sexually assaulted by her best friend’s ‘partner in crime.’ She was wearing Lululemon sweatpants.

He offered Kat a joint and she wanted to impress him, so she took it. He then started to force things onto her and he forced her to reciprocate. At first, Kat did not know how to address the incident. This was one incident of many.

“It became such a part of my identity that I didn’t question what my [sexual] preferences might be,” Kat said.

When she was 17, she identified as asexual for six months. Now, a senior in college, she has found herself in her sexuality.

“I didn’t realize a lot of things about myself when these traumas occurred because they took over my life,” Kat said. “I did trauma therapy and physical therapy for my pelvic floor. I woke up covered in blood after the first assault. It wasn’t until I had space to heal that I was able to uncover things about my sexuality and gender, that I am queer and genderqueer, and that I’m a recovering addict.”

On Oct. 15, she posted #MeToo on her Facebook feed. #MeToo is a campaign sweeping social media that is designed to allow survivors of sexual assault and harassment to stand in solidarity with others who have experienced the same thing. Many sexual assault survivors have used the hashtag as a platform to tell their story. Kat was one of them.

“Seeing #MeToo around my feed was triggering, but also unifying,” Kat said.  “I felt camaraderie with such an overwhelming number of people on my feed that may share parts of my story that I felt very alone with for years. While I’ve made a lot of progress, it’s easy to forget I’m not alone with it nor the center of my traumatic universe, and that I share this universe with others and share pain.”

RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network says an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

#MeToo was started on Facebook on Oct. 15. By 11:30 a.m. the next day, over 8.7 million people were posting about it, according to Facebook statistics.

Patti Hayes is a Webster student who also posted #MeToo on Facebook. She said she posted it because a woman sexually harassed her at her previous job. Hayes believed the social media campaign helped her view her experience in a different way.

“I’ve had this affecting me for about two and a half years,” Hayes said. “I know many people have experiences with sexual assault and harassment, but it did kind of help me with viewing my experience because by putting sexual harassment and assault together in the campaign or hashtag it made me feel a little less like my experience was insignificant. ”

Seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, according to RAINN. Robert Richardson, a senior at Webster, is a part of this statistic.

Richardson shared his story for the first time ever this summer, during RA training. One activity required trainees to create mind maps highlighting incidents from their lives that had led them to where they are now. Richardson decided to start his mind map with his molestation.

The following exercise required students to stand in front of everyone, hold a rope and start with an ‘I am’ statement. Robert walked up there slow, took a deep breath and said, “I and my sisters have either been molested or raped.”

He was four or five years old when an older kid living three doors down from him molested him. When he told his story, he said he cried more than he ever had in his life.

“I had to accept that whole time period of my life because if I didn’t, I just wouldn’t have been able to move forward.” Richardson said. “When you’re like me and come from a highly religious family, the understandable case is when a man exercises his heterosexual masculinity and his male privilege overall over a woman. It’s another case when you have a male exercise that over a younger male. It’s a more jaded situation in which we can’t comprehend..”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 27.8 percent of men were age 10 or younger when they were first raped or victimized. Richardson also posted #MeToo on social media.

“After this happened, my life did not stop, my life did not become shut down,” Richardson said. “Although it’s very very difficult, there is life afterwards. It played a part into the making of who I am, it played a part in the fabric of my character and personality but ultimately it did not change the definition of who I am. I was a little surprised for the fact of it’s 2017 and there’s that amount of people that have come to a level of strength that they’re able to say it’s happened to them too. I was initially surprised, and then it was a sense of comfort.”

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