November 2. 2017
Sexual harassment is a major problem in our society. However, while it may be a problem, it is a private one, suffered by men and women behind closed doors It robs them of their dignity and their self-esteem. That is until recently, when 1.7 million people on Twitter admitted to being sexually harassed by using a hashtag containing two simple yet powerful words: Me too.
While most people may believe that actress Alyssa Milano started the hashtag trend on Twitter several weeks ago, the truth is that the hashtag movement against sexual violence of any kind started way earlier, in 2006. According to CNN, the movement was started by activist and sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke after facing her own horrors when a young girl confessed her sexual abuse to her. She found herself unable to face the past, and sent the girl away. She then regretted not just saying “Me too.”
Burke then started the #MeToo movement as a way for women of color who had been sexually assaulted, abused, and exploited to speak out. Ten years later, the movement was reinvigorated on Twitter. The catalyst that set it off was not an unfamiliar scenario to victims of sexual harassment: a man of power taking advantage of young women.
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by dozens of women. In the span of 48 hours, he found himself ejected from the company he helped found, The Weinstein Company, and from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, showing that no amount of money justifies the crimes he committed.
Following many more allegations against Weinstein–hundreds of allegations–Milano posted a tweet that read in part, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
The phrase went viral, from major Hollywood actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, to political figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren, to your five friends on Facebook who admitted to their private suffering on a public forum.
This campaign has been instrumental in bringing to the forefront an issue that has been percolating for decades: the power and domination that men have over women.
For example, anyone who was alive in the late 1990s remembers when a 23-year-old intern named Monica Lewinsky accused President Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Clinton was impeached, but was not thrown out of office. This sent a clear message to victims-and perpetrators-of sexual assault: you can get away with it if you hold enough power.
Another instance of a famous celebrity being accused occurred last year when nearly 50 women came out against popular comedian Bill Cosby and accused him of drugging and raping them as far back as the 1960s.
But, while sexual assault may go high up, it is important that we do not forget the faces that we have not seen. The names we have not heard. The ones who nobody had heard of until they uttered the words, “Me too.”
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that in their lifetime, one in five women will be raped. An additional 14 to 25% of women will be sexually assaulted in a relationship. This does not extend just to women, either. According to the RAINN website, one out of every ten rape victims are male. Additionally, age is not a limitation for people affected. The same website showed statistics that said young children were at the most risk for sexual violence: 66% of victims under the age of 18 are ages 12 to 17. Even more shocking: 93% of these victims know the perpetrator. These are harrowing statistics that should prompt people to take a stand.
But now, these women–and men–have a chance to speak out, to reveal what has happened to them in the hopes that it will encourage others who have been through the same. They are not alone.