Me, Too (and other things women are yelling into the void this week)
If you’re living in Trump’s America this week, first of all, I’m sorry.
Second, you’ve probably noticed a lot of women posting “#MeToo” on their social media platforms over the past few days. It seems that while most women understand the trend, I’ve seen a lot of questions about the hashtag on the Internet.
While I can’t answer them all, I can, as a woman, speak from experience. I can also try to direct the few people who read this to some more official resources who can speak more authoritatively than I. Here we go.
What does “me, too” mean?
The "Me Too" Movement was started by activist Tarana Burke 10 years ago, as a grassroots movement to support sexual assault survivors in underserved areas. She told Ebony Magazine that the campaign's purpose "empowerment through empathy."
On Saturday, Oct. 14, actress Alyssa Milano posted this tweet encouraging more women to use #MeToo on Twitter:
Though Burke saluted the social media wave in her Ebony interview, she hasn't received due credit in a large portion of this week's media coverage — an all-too-common scenario where women of color are unfairly diminished in discussions of sexual violence. We can't ignore this.
As a social media campaign, it's an opportunity for survivors of sexual misconduct to rally together, and prove that it’s not because of your outfit, your feminism, your looks or your age. It’s because of your assailant.
A Twitter spokesperson told The Atlantic that #MeToo had been tweeted nearly half a million times in the last 24 hours.
Here's what some of them said:
Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store. I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me w/ "dress modestly" shit.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 15, 2017
Have all women really been victims of sexual assault?
There’s not really a way of knowing, because only an estimated 1 out of every 3 sexual assault cases gets reported, and that’s based on loose terminology of what sexual assault actually is. If this is the question you asked, you’re missing the point.
Correct me if my tiny female brain is mistaken: 321,500 Americans report rape or sexual assault every year. Multiply that by 3 to account for unreported instances, and you get almost 1 million people in 2017 alone. Multiply that by your age to think about how many people have been assaulted in your lifetime.
I urge you to consider this: How many women will it take reporting sexual violence for you to condemn it?
Where can I find some devil’s advocates?
I refuse to imply that there’s any merit in a position that doesn’t condemn sexual violence, but I will acknowledge that these opinions exist, and you should be familiar with the rhetoric if you want to refute them. I’ll start by pointing out that devil’s advocates are literally named after Satan.
And then I’ll point you to this NYT opinion piece by The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik. She attested that simply being less conventionally attractive is the ultimate way for men to leave women alone. As if women have the power to decide when men will think they’re worth raping. Ok.
This exact week last year, Donald Trump announced at a presidential campaign rally that the women accusing him of sexual assault were too ugly to have been the subject of his unwanted advances. In less than a month from now, it will be a full year since 62.9 million Americans decided that wasn’t a reason to vote otherwise.
Like I said, these people exist.
And a lot of them think that women are liars, or that men need protection from false accusations of rape. I agree that fabricating a story of assault is detrimental to the accused. But false accusations only make up 2-8 percent of reports, which is the same as any other crime, so it’s not a valid reason to silence someone from reporting sexual assault.
Only 6 out of every 1000 rapists actually serve jail time, according to RAINN. That’s not even 1 percent.
Do I have to say “me, too” too?
No. No one is pressuring women to broadcast their stories of sexual violence. Your experiences are yours, and they can be as private or as public as you’d like them to be.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, but you aren’t one of the women who has shared their stories on social media this week, you are still brave and resilient and powerful, and we value you. You matter.
What can I do if I’m a man?
Several things, actually. These will be hard, but you know what? So is getting sexually assaulted, so women need your help in speaking out while we’re recovering from our trauma.
One: Please don’t qualify your compassion because women are related to you. We know you have sisters and daughters and wives and mothers. We are them. Care because you have a conscience. Tell us, instead, that you have brothers and sons and husbands and dads, and that you’re willing to call them out when they objectify women.
Two: The next time someone in your friend group objectifies a woman, tell them it’s not okay. When you laugh at a gross comment, when you see screenshots in the group thread, when you are silent in any way, you are enabling sexual violence. You become part of the problem when you are complicit. Calling out your friends for predatory or objectifying behavior is uncomfortable, but it goes a long way coming from a man. Hold each other accountable. As Margaret Atwood quipped: Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.
Three: Believe us when we open up to you about an experience of assault. In fact, tell us that you believe us before you say anything else. Being accused of lying is a major reason why women don’t report abuse and assault. Practice saying it out loud, right now. I believe you, I believe you, I believe you.
Where can I get involved?
These are just a few resources that I know to be helpful, the results of both a quick Google search and my own common knowledge. If you know of some that I should include, leave me a message and I’ll add them onto this post. As always, thanks for reading and caring.
To learn more about sexual violence:
Here’s some statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
This is the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which highlights the sobering statistics of sexual violence against transgender people in the U.S.
Read the letter written by the survivor of convicted rapist Brock Turner, who only served 3 months in jail, so you can know what kind of world we live in. These are all the tweets posted with #MeToo, so you can see and share the stories of other women. This is the coverage of the social media wave from Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, NYT, Vox and HuffPo, in case you want some more liberal news.
To get involved:
Visit any of these sites to find volunteer, donate or spread information:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards
- National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC)
- National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
- Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN)
- Take Back The Night Foundation
- U. S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women
- Improving the Police Response to Sexual Assault
Use this site to find your congressperson’s contact information, as well as a script for what to say when you call.
To report sexual violence:
Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
The original version of this story credited Alyssa Milano as the creator of the #MeToo campaign. I regret the error, as the credit should have been given to Tarana Burke.