#MeToo: The Campaign Known to Hit Home
Around the world, victims of sexual assault have been taking a stand in a rather unique way: through the #MeToo campaign. Due to the reality that many acts of sexual assault go unreported, the #MeToo campaign is attempting to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault. Young girls and women all over the globe have used the #MeToo hashtag on a multitude of social media platforms and, as a result, the campaign has aided in giving visibility to this epidemic of sexual violence.
Although the topic of conversation is trendy in light of the recent Hollywood sexual assault cases, the #MeToo movement originated long before—in 1997, to be specific. It began when Tarana Burke, an African American woman, was emotionally and mentally impacted by a conversation she had with a then 13-year-old sexual assault victim. The experience became an open wound for Burke and left her with a feeling of helplessness. The feeling of sitting in the presence of a traumatized young girl and being unable to help stayed with her. Because of that impactful conversation, Tarana established her very own non-profit organization ten years later—Me Too (2007). The organization is dedicated to the victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape and provides them with the necessary resources to transition into healthier lives after sexual violence.
It was not until recently that celebrities and public figures participated in the movement by posting and tweeting the words “Me Too.” Once the sexual assault accusations of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein made headlines, actress Alyssa Milano came forward on Twitter, leading the way for more sexual assault and rape victims to raise their voices. High-profile women in the media, such as Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon, are just a couple of the many women who have come forward to share their experiences with sexual assault at the hands of Weinstein. The enormous number of women participating in the #MeToo Campaign reveals the magnitude of sexual abuse and how often it goes unreported.
As a society, we must acknowledge the severity of the issue of sexual assault in the United States. It’s more prevalent than many assume and it is happening everyday—in our schools, within our criminal justice system, in the workplace, and even in our own households.
We have got to accept what the reality we're living in is: a culture of rape and sexual assault. Some may question why victims of sexual violence never report the incident, but sexual assault is rarely given as much attention as it deserves, deterring victims from coming forward. It is treated as a taboo, private issue rather than a symptom of a systemic and societal problem. Further, sexual assault victims and survivors live with guilt, shame, and blame. These feelings victims and survivors experience come from accusations that they ‘wanted it’ or ‘asked for it.’ Victim-blaming leads to the silence of victims and survivors.
The misconception that sexual assault victims ‘wanted it’ is preposterous and only continues to feed persisting misapprehensions of rape and sexual assault. Ms. Milano felt it was time to call out sexual perpetrators and acknowledge the silenced voices of victims of sexual abuse. Her actions provided a chance to open the floor to important dialogue about rape and sexual assault. It all starts with acknowledgment, then we can form a dialogue and consider strategies for prevention and continued awareness. Leave the platform open and readily available for victims and survivors. Their voices matter, they matter, and I matter, because #MeToo.