BY MARISSA CASTANOS
#MeToo. This hashtag has been sweeping different social media platforms all across the world. But, what does this little hashtag mean? Unless you do not have access to a television, computer, smartphone, or even newspaper, you have more than likely heard of the scandals involving different powerful men within our society.
On October 15, Alyssa Milano – a famous actress – tweeted “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” One simple tweet from an actress and thousands of tweets started spilling in – from fans and from other famous men and women.
What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that the ‘Me Too’ phrase was started 10 years ago by Tarana Burke. She started the movement in 2006 because as a sexual assault survivor, she wanted to help women and girls – particularly girls of color – who had survived sexual assault, just as she had.
This story is about more about than just a hashtag, it’s the reason we are using it today in our society.
Recent allegations of sexual assault and harassment aren’t the first time a man of power has been accused of sexual assault. In the last few years, allegations began pouring in of Bill Cosby sexually assaulting the women he worked with. Even President Trump has been accused of sexual assault and has recently been subpoenaed over those allegations.
Many are curious as to why these women are coming forward now, and why they didn’t come forward before and accuse their abuser. If you take a look at any comment section under these news stories about women using this hashtag, you’ll see a slew of men and also women who have decided that these women are liars and just wanting attention.
That right there is the reason women do not come forward. It is not the only reason, of course, but I do believe that it is a big reason.
When you experience a sexual assault, you may feel one emotion, you may feel every emotion there is, or you may feel numb. You may feel embarrassment, rage, confusion, disgust, or pure shock. Being sexually assaulted is one of the worst things that can happen to you as a human being because it destroys you emotionally. But one thing that is common in today’s society, unfortunately, is victim blaming. Victim blaming is not only harmful to the sexually abused, but it encourages the abuser because it in a sense protects him/her.
Although many are coming forward and accusing men in show business of sexual assault, an Olympic gold medalist wants us to remember that this happens everywhere. Gymnast, McKayla Maroney, and her team won gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, and she won an individual medal on vault. The athlete came forward recently, admitting that she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.
Maroney included a note in her #MeToo tweet. She wrote that “People should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere. Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse.”
These are powerful words, that came from an empowered woman. But sexual assault is not only done by men in power, assaulters can be men, women, rich, poor, white, black, old, or young. When sexual assault happens, and a man or a woman comes forward to tell his/her story, we need to offer support, not blame.
One group on campus is advocating for sexual assault survivors and bringing attention to sexual assault and domestic abuse. The Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) encouraged students to attend a T-Shirt designing project, which is a well-known Red Flag Campaign event.
Students gathered in the Prairie Room in the Union and wrote different quotes on T-Shirts, pertaining to sexual assault and domestic abuse. Some of these quotes included “Boy will be boys held accountable for their actions,” “Sexual assault and domestic abuse are difficult things to talk about. Talk about them anyways,” and many others. These T-Shirts will be hung on a clothesline outside of Memorial Union for students and faculty to see.
Elaine Parkinson, Student Coordinator for the Women’s Leadership Project event gave insight into why the organization feels it is important to bring awareness to the red flags in an abusive relationship.
“At the Women’s Leadership Project, we believe that a woman can’t be empowered to be a leader unless she feels safe, and she can’t be safe if she’s stuck in an abusive relationship,” said Parkinson. “The red flag campaign is a bystander intervention program that encourages bystander intervention when you see something you say something.”
In our society, we need to come together and all be feminists and advocates for survivors of sexual assault. We need to stop victim blaming, we need to stop protecting the abuser, we need to realize that just because someone is a survivor does not mean that what happened is okay. It’s time that we come together as a society to put an end to sexual assault and domestic abuse.
For more information on the organization and their events, search “Women’s Leadership Project” on TigerLink.