You have likely seen the hashtag #MeToo popping up on your Facebook and Twitter feed this week. The #MeToo movement was started by Tarana Burke more than 10 years ago and it only gained national momentum on Sunday when Alyssa Milano tweeted, "Me too. If all the women and men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Since then, the hashtag has been tweeted more than half a million times.
As the message states, the movement began to "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." On Monday, my Facebook feed was covered with #MeToo statuses. Since I have been sexually harassed more times than I can even begin to think of, I posted #MeToo on Facebook.
I am glad to see this movement has taken off because it opens up a dialogue about an issue that has been going on for years and years. Of course, this an issue that is hard for women to disclose or talk about because of the trauma of the experience, so just because a women doesn't share a "#MeToo" status does not mean that she has not been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed at some point in her life. Survivors don't owe anyone their story.
As we continue to read the headlines bombarding our newsfeed about more celebrities coming forward describing their experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, it just reasserts the fact that sexual assault and sexual harassment is a major problem in our society.
The fact that a person who was elected to run the United States of America has openly sexually harassed women and has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman named Summer Zervos - who happens to be subpoenaing Trump's campaign over sexual assault allegations, speaks even larger volumes about the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our culture.
Some citizens of this country elected a sexual predator to run this country. Let that thought sink in for a moment.
It's rather disheartening to know that many women (and men too - we can't disregard the fact that men can also be sexually assaulted and sexually harassed), have experienced sexual assault or some form of sexual harassment in their life. It's become a common discussion consisting of, "Oh yeah, that happened to me too when I was in college" or "Yeah, I was sexually harassed at work". It's disheartening and disgusting to know how often it occurs.
I have been sexually harassed many times; so many times that I can't even begin to recall all of the times it's happened to me. Some instances I do remember are:
- I was sexually harassed and stalked by a man when I worked at a newspaper. He sent me emails and messages insisting that I go on a date with him. He would not leave me alone and became aggressive when I told him to leave me alone. It got to the point where my supervisor and general manager had to get involved and remove me from covering the particular meeting I attended because he was running for a local government position.
- I have been followed by men on the street many times. I remember a particular incident where a man was right on my heels begging me for my phone number and calling me names like "beautiful" and "baby girl"; I took off running because I was so scared.
- I was walking to class and a man in a car driving by yelled "Come sit on my face!" at me.
- I was working out at the gym and a man was following me from station to station. I had a bad gut feeling and cut my workout short.
- Most of the times when I went to nightclubs and bars in college; some guy I didn't know or had no intention of talking to would come up behind me and start grinding on me without asking me. Sometimes they stopped when I told them to, other times I had to squeeze my way through the sea of people and stay behind my friends.
- A time when I was 18 years old and I was watching a band play at a local bar. An older man wouldn't leave me alone and got aggressive when I told him to stop. The band stopped playing, people stepped in to help me and I immediately left. I haven't returned since.
These are only a few incidents of sexual harassment that I have encountered. It's become such a common experience for women. Society needs to do better. We need to teach people that it's never okay to sexually harass or sexually assault someone. Too many people have been traumatized by sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape and sexual violence.
Let's do better. As a society, we need to teach our children that it's never okay to rape, harass or assault another human being. We need to end rape culture, we need to stop shaming women for what they choose to wear. The victim blaming mentality needs to come to an end. We need to not allow society to let predators like Brock Turner essentially get away with rape and sexual assault and men who won't leave women alone after they tell them "NO!"
I want to see this #MeToo movement lead to real changes and a shift in our culture. Now is the time. Nobody should have to feel shamed or suffer in silence.
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