November 15, 2018

#MeToo: Use an inclusive movement to share your truth

The #MeToo movement was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke as a way to reassure survivors of sexual assault they are not alone. Since then, the movement has erupted across social media.

Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted on Oct. 15, 2017, calling on her followers to  tweet #MeToo if they had been sexually assaulted. Within three months of her tweet, 6.5 million people tweeted using the hashtag, either to show their support or tell their story. There were, of course, also tweets using the hashtag to work against the movement.

I first heard about this movement about a year ago because of heightened media coverage. Amid the Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey allegations, the #MeToo movement propelled forward with women and men, famous and unfamous, sharing their stories.

I was immediately intrigued by the movement and wanted to learn more about it and the various ways to support survivors. Over the course of the past year, I have become a strong supporter of this movement.

The #MeToo movement draws attention to the issue of sexual harassment and assault, but it isn’t a solution like some may think. The goal is to make victims feel like they aren’t alone. This movement doesn’t help everyone who has been sexually assaulted because everyone heals in different ways and needs different things, but it does help many survivors.

The #MeToo movement is a way for me to make that support known. It’s a way for everyone to make their support known. It opens a conversation about a difficult topic, regardless of if you have personally experienced it or not.

Recently statements like, “It’s a hard time for men” and “#HimToo” have become popular on social media platforms. This has a lot to do with sexual assault allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Statements defending men will never stop baffling me.

Yes, it can be hard to be a man. Men are sexually assaulted and abused as well, and they also have unfair gender norms forced upon them. No one’s pain should be made a mockery of. By saying, “It’s a hard time to be a man” it undermines the work of advocates and the very valid experiences and fears women and men harbor within their souls from experiences of sexual assault.

The #MeToo movement is not female exclusive, men can and have taken part either by sharing their stories or supporting others sharing theirs. However, most men do not feel the need to carry pepper spray or another weapon with them when simply going on a run. Most men don’t think about the need to walk in a group because of the fear of being alone at night.

Despite the many women who feel as though danger waits around every corner, they still go out. They still have fun. Although there are so many women who fear for their safety when in public alone, or even with a group, they continue living their lives. They do what they need to do by pushing through and making changes to help them feel more safe. Women are just as brave as men are perceived to be.

There is a long history of gender discrimination in America. Women have been pushed down, demeaned and made to believe they are somehow weaker than their male counterparts since before the Constitution was written.

I hear so many people make the argument, “Well women have the right to vote,” “Women can legally do anything men can do,” etc. While this is true and we have come a very long way since the beginning of the battle, there is still so much more progress to be made. Sexism isn’t always apparent, especially when someone isn’t being sexist toward your gender. Whether this sexism is blatant or not doesn’t change the effect it has on women.

It is a worldwide trend that people are ignored when they make a sexual assault allegation. The bias against those reporting sexual assault is apparent when you look at the popularized cases of sexual assault that have been reported.

According to RAINN.org, nearly two-thirds of sexual assaults are never reported to the police and 994 out of 1,000 sexual assailants will walk free. That’s 99.4 percent. Furthermore, one out of every six American women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

This means that even if you don’t think you do, you probably know someone who has been a victim of sexual violence. Many survivors never get to share their voice. The #MeToo movement gives them a space to do that when it can seem like there’s no one who will listen.

Never stop sharing your story because it is a part of who you are, but it does not define you. Never stop standing up to make your voice heard.

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