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On Sunday night, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were flooded with proclamations of #MeToo from women and men who had experienced sexual assault or harassment. The posts haven’t slowed since then. Millions of people have posted, read and reacted to stories of survival over the weekend and the hashtag continues to grow.
Of course, any social movement brings critics. Several people on Twitter over the last few days voiced their concerns over #MeToo, saying that it was pointless to post on social media about an issue that requires social action and that glorifying victimhood only brings about false claims. Others pointed out the one-sided nature of the trend, saying that it ignored the experiences of male survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
While it may be true that social media is not the be-all, end-all method for social change, the #MeToo hashtag is showing us how many people need a platform to speak about their experiences. Social media, as always, is showing us where the priorities of the general public are. It is encouraging for sexual assault survivors to see these outpourings of support from any public forum. It’s not productive to shame the people sharing their stories for not reporting their attacker.
Many survivors do not have faith in the justice system. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, two out of three sexual assaults will go unreported, and seven out of 10 rape victims personally know their attackers. When this is the case, victims’ fears of ostracism or social retribution can often outweigh their desire to be heard. Most of the time, an attacker will be in a position of power over the victim. Attempts to report assault are subsequently often dismissed because the attacker is “such a nice guy” who “wouldn’t do something like that.”
At this point, many have heard the one-in-five statistic released by the CDC about on-campus sexual assault. It says that women have a one-in-five chance of being sexually assaulted while attending a university. It’s not like the #MeToo campaign was the first of its kind, either. In recent years, the popularity of #YesAllWomen and #TheEmptyChair following the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California and the Bill Cosby trials, respectively, showed the world the misogynistic reality that women live in. All of these campaigns faded out eventually. What makes #MeToo any different?
#MeToo is focused on the real stories of victims and survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Furthermore, #MeToo calls directly upon survivors to tell their story in solidarity with one another. It is no longer about the perpetrators of sexual violence. #MeToo tells victims and survivors that their story is worth sharing and that they will be understood. That is what makes this movement so powerful.
While some men may feel alienated by these posts, a different trend has emerged from male friends and colleagues of the women posting about #MeToo: many men are posting using either #ItWasMe or #YesIHave. In contrast to the #MeToo campaign, these posts provide a platform for men to come forward about the ways that they have allowed, perpetuated or benefited from sexual harassment and how they learned to listen to the stories of survivors to become more aware of issues surrounding sexual violence.
Using a hashtag will not put an end to sexual assault. However, it will force the people around you to face the gravity of the situation and hopefully provide a community net for people who are still unable to come forward about their experiences. Hopefully, this will allow survivors to officially come forward and report their experiences more frequently. In the meantime, we must be patient and supportive to victims and survivors. They did not ask to be put in this position and they should be allowed to deal with their trauma at their own pace.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Anna Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.