The trending #MeToo, used by individuals sharing that they, too, have been sexually assault and/or harassed, provides a striking visual of a fact many of us already know all too well – that the number of those of us affected by sexual violence in some from is staggering in its magnitude. Media outlets reporting on the trending hashtag are largely positioning it as a response to the coverage on Harvey Weinstein. The assumption is understandable, and may be true for some, but as a survivor of sexual assault and harassment, Weinstein was far from the only man on my mind when I chose to add my voice to the movement. Social media trends like this one can be useful for giving an issue visibility and raising awareness. In order to be effective, however, it must go further.
Those overwhelmed by the sheer volume of disclosures on their social media feeds may be gaining new understanding of the widespread impact of sexual violence. The Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey tells us an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Though the vast majority of sexually violent crimes are perpetuated by men on women, sexual assault and sexual harassment occur among all genders and sexual orientations, with marginalized population even more at risk of victimization. Heart-wrenching statistics reflect so much more than the Weinstein denouncements, so much more than Trump’s infamously minimized “locker room talk.” They are the catcalls, the cars that slow down to follow us down the streets, the hands returning to our upper thigh no matter how many times we’ve pushed them away, the “if you really loved me” assertions, the violent ways we are told we are not worth respecting.
In honoring the courage it takes to publicly proclaim one’s status as a survivor of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment, we must also remember all those among who have chosen to not disclose. The burden should never been on survivors, whose autonomy has already been violated, to make themselves vulnerable in order to educate those around them. If the survivors in your social circle have educated you, they have gone above and beyond doing their part – now it’s your turn.
The #MeToo outcry from our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, etc. about the veritable epidemic that is sexual violence should be met with community support, and community solutions. We can no longer pretend sexual violence is something that “happens to other people.” We don’t have to start from scratch; the movement to address and prevent sexual assault and harassment is already underway across Colorado. Community-based organizations educate, advocate, and provide supportive services for those affected. Our statewide coalition, The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, aims to represent its member agencies by providing training, technical assistance, and advancing public policy change. Learn more about the scope of the problem, find out how you can support someone who discloses to you, volunteer you time and expertise, donate what you can… every little bit matters to all of us who have shared a piece of our story with you.
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Photo credit: surdumihail, Creative Commons, Pixabay