On October 15th celebrity Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo and explained that “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as
a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The hashtag went viral and soon people could not scroll through their social media platforms without seeing the statuses.
The hashtag trend certainly caught the attention of the public and media. Some people shared their personal stories with sexual harassment and/or assault while others simply posted “me too.” Many people expressed through social media how astonished they were at just how many people have been affected by sexual harassment or assault. Almost every single woman has experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in her life.
The “me too” movement was initially started in 2006 by Just Be Inc. The mission of this organization is to promote the “health, well-being and wholeness of young women of color.” The “me too” movement was designed to support young women who have survived sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation. One of the main goals of the movement was to empower young women, especially young women of color, by providing them with the reassurance that they are not alone in their circumstances. The recent social media trend not only helps raise awareness regarding the extent of the problem, but also helps create an online community where women who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault know that they are not alone.
Sexual harassment and assault is pervasive. It is damaging to society as a whole, and while many people often view certain types of assault or harassment as worse than others, it is all traumatizing and violating to the victim. As long as harassment and assault are ignored, they will continue to occur. This contributes to the creation of an unsafe environment, especially for women who make up 90% of sexual assault victims.
Critics of the “me too” campaign are troubled by the fact that women and men yet again have to come forward and identify themselves as survivors in order to raise awareness. Many feel that this is revictimization of the survivor, and is taking the focus off of the perpetrators. While this may be true, making it personal through social media also has the potential make people listen. When your friend posts “me too” this is no longer a distant issue. It makes it a bit more personal. It is unfortunate that this is what we have come to in order to try to make the public listen.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the largest anti-sexual violence network in the country. They work to raise awareness about the extent of the problem as well as developing prevention programs, helping survivors and working to bring perpetrators to justice. The statistics on their website are shocking, but support the numbers seen with the recent “me too” movement. With a person being sexually assaulted every 98 seconds it is not surprising that so many people participated in the social media campaign.
Raising awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and how it affects the population, is the first step in ending it. It is also important in helping people understand that they have the right to walk through this world without being verbally or physically victimized. Knowing that this is a violation of their rights is essential in motivating them to seek the care that they need, and that they are not responsible for what happened to them. Having trusted people in whom they can confide can help people cope with these negative experiences. Health care providers often discuss sensitive topics with patients and can become the person with whom they will confide in regarding these traumatizing experiences. The recent “me too” campaign not only created an environment for people for recognize that they are not alone, but also has the potential to bring to the surface some experiences that certain people may not have talked about yet. Be prepared to listen more intently this week as this campaign may prompt patients to address their own experiences.