#MeToo: Why Weren't We Believed When It Happened?
How It Started - Thanks, #AlyssaMilano
#MeToo: The New Twitter Hashtag That Should Leave You Unsettled
If there's anything that Hollywood's #HarveyWeinstein's scandal is teaching us right now, it's that keeping sexual assault and harassment by those in power quiet has been an ongoing issue for years.
Certainly, this is not a trend unique to Hollywood, but it's also important to consider what power might mean, as well. Power could be in the traditional sense where one person is the other's boss, or it could be something more in the physical sense, where one person is larger in one respect or another (height, strength or mass). Either interpretation can be incredibly intimidating.
For years, sexual assault and sexual harassment victims - regardless of gender identity or sexuality - have been left with the impression that they need to stay silent, or that their version of events is so incredible as not to be believed. Those who have been victimized in this way have been "encouraged," for lack of a better term, to keep their mouths shut, because it would be a case of their word against the offending party. So, although most (if not all) of us have been told by our parents or loved ones that if something wrong should happen we should speak out, when it comes to sexual assault or harassment, we have basically been silenced.
It could be that the offender was a family member, and in order to keep the peace you were simply removed from the situation and the event was glossed over and never spoken of again. Certainly, that would have been commonplace in the early part of the 20th century and well into the 1980s and 90s, even leading into today. Parents have been known in the past to simply encourage the sexually assaulted child to stay quiet in order to not disturb the overall family dynamic, and excuses were used: "So and so was just drunk - they didn't mean it." "Are you sure this happened? He (or she) loves you - they wouldn't have hurt you."
As adults, one would hope that our ages would lend us a certain degree of credibility, but consider the number of times that we learn of someone garnering success and people start gossiping. "Oh, he just charmed his way to the top." "She must have slept with the boss."
We don't always know what's happened behind closed doors, yet there have been suppositions and guesses made and there are humans among us who make disgusting suggestions to the contrary when someone - again, regardless of gender identity or sexuality - comes forward with accusations of sexual assault or harassment.
I love that sexual assault survivors and victims of sexual harassment are coming forward on social media with #metoo in order that we finally see the absolute scope of the issue. My problem is that it's taken us far too long to get there. Those of us who have been through sexual assault or harassment have endured years of lines like "I have needs," or "you owe this to me," or unwanted touching of our most intimate parts while knowing the odds of someone believing what we have been through are low.
We live in a world where, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 994 offenders will get off free. Many individuals feel there's a lot of victim blaming when sexual assault occurs, and very often, they're right. Victims are put through, whether intentionally or not, hell when it comes to discussing what they've been through, and every inch of their clothing and how they conducted themselves is analyzed. I'm no lawyer, but I do understand that a good part of that is a part of the investigative process; what sexual assault or harassment victim wants to subject themselves to that, though?
I think every person who has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted should speak up as the hashtag #MeToo is cropping up more and more. I just wish that it hadn't taken us this long to get to the point where this is how survivors talk about it and are believed without question.
Like so many things that are stigmatized, sexual assault and sexual harassment should not be taboo topics. These are issues that need to be discussed and while I get, as someone who has been sexually assaulted twice, that these are difficult to talk about, people who are discussing assault or harassment are turning to you for support.
We need to be unsettled by the fact that it's taken us this long to get to the point where we are talking about sexual assault and sexual harassment in an open forum. While #MeToo has opened the door to those hard conversations, we need to continue having these conversations long after the hashtag has faded into oblivion.