The following post was written by Kristy Cullivan Sierra, BARCC’s development director.
#MeToo is a movement on social media meant to bring attention to the magnitude of sexual violence. Since it went viral on Sunday, October 15, people have posted #MeToo on their Facebook and Twitter pages to indicate that they, too, have experienced sexual violence. Within 24 hours, the hashtag had been tweeted nearly 500,000 times on Twitter.
I’m torn by #MeToo. It’s well meaning, like many things these days. But #MeToo puts the onus on survivors to draw attention to this epidemic rather than putting the onus where it belongs: on the people committing sexual assault and sexual harassment.
There’s too much vulnerability associated with #metoo for me to fully get behind it. Just because I’m ready to bare my truth doesn’t mean we all are.
#MeToo came out Sunday while I was making dinner, watching football, putting my young daughter to bed, and mentally preparing for a big work week. I didn’t think much before I posted “#MeToo.” And then it set in: that vulnerability that always comes when I post on social media about sexual assault. Because even today in 2017 survivors are still forced to deal with not being believed, with feeling like we’re trying to call attention to ourselves when we speak up, with being judged, or worse, with being ignored.
With public awareness and outrage surrounding sexual violence being more heightened than ever before, survivors are repeatedly faced with hearing or reading commentary, what feels like All. Day. Long.
We’ve reached a critical moment when the public is finally starting to pay attention to how widespread and urgent sexual violence is in our society. Yet so many people still don’t get it. So many people are still blaming the victim, not believing survivors, empathizing with and enabling perpetrators—because they have amazing swim times or Ivy League grades or their whole futures ahead of them, the list goes on (and on and on and on ad nauseum).
#MeToo will get more people talking: that’s a good thing.
#MeToo will help some survivors feel supported to speak out: that’s a good thing.
At the same time, #MeToo will increase vulnerability for many survivors. #MeToo will make some survivors feel pressured to speak out when perhaps they’re not ready to, or at least not so publically.
We need to change the narrative. The solution is not just in survivors sharing their stories. The solution is for all of us to make a conscious effort to change the narrative. For all of us to believe survivors. To call out people who blame victims. For all of us to take an active role in creating safer work and social environments where we don’t accept the “boys will be boys” culture (yet also where we recognize that men are not the only offenders and women are not the only survivors).
We seem to have arrived at the point where more people are willing to accept that sexual violence is a major problem in our society. Have we yet reached the point where people—other than survivors—are going to take some responsibility for addressing the problem?
Here’s what you can do
- Post survivor support resources (like BARCC!) online.
- Request a consent or bystander training from BARCC so you can call out and prevent sexual violence in your communities.
- Support loved ones in these ways.
- If you don’t know much about sexual violence, learn more.
- Take care of yourself: reading so many disclosures can feel triggering and overwhelming.