In today’s technologically dependent society, important issues are immediately brought to the population via social networking. This month’s #MeToo phenomenon is no exception. Within a few days, the words “me too” have been transformed into the #MeToo movement, representing women and men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the phrase coined by activist Tarana Burke recently became popularized on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. But in order for serious issues such as sexual harassment and assault to be truly addressed, this conversation must continue both in person and online.
Sexual harassment is constantly trivialized in our everyday lives. When our society accepts “locker room talk,” we are consciously accepting the stereotyping and objectifying of women. When we ask victims of sexual assault what they were wearing, we are putting the blame on the victim rather than on the abuser. When we ignore what victims of sexual harassment are saying, we are encouraging the perpetual dominance of harassers over their victims. Although we should hear the stories of both the victim and abuser, we should not put so much focus on the abuser and his or her occupation or background. A crime is still a crime regardless of who is involved.
One of the biggest issues with sexual harassment is that it is not part of our everyday conversations until a handful of harassers such as Brock Turner, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein are brought to media attention. We do not talk about sexual harassment until we have to — when the people we put on pedestals are finally caught. We do not talk enough about the sexual harassers that we may personally know because we cannot fathom the possibility that a friend or family member could do such horrid things. Sexual violence is not just a Hollywood problem or a Silicon Valley problem; it is a nationwide problem that exists in every industry and environment.
In a college environment, it can be even more difficult to talk about sexual harassment and sexual assault because the people around us are our classmates. In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knows the person who sexually assaulted them. Although there is an overemphasis on false rape accusations, false accusations are very rare with only between two percent and 10 percent of all reports that are estimated to be false. In fear of retribution from the harasser or the harasser’s friends, victims on a college campus are even less likely to report any real sexual offenses, let alone false accusations.
#MeToo enables people, both with and without a wide media influence, to share their genuine voices and real anecdotes to their community of friends and family. When survivors come forward, they oftentimes face scrutiny from peers, family or police officers as their victimization is investigated, processed and then categorized into police cases. The #MeToo campaign has allowed the conversation of sexual assault to focus on the courageous victims rather than the abusers. Every woman and man who has been marginalized by others and even blamed for their own assault is now allowed to have control over the ongoing conversation of sexual harassment.
Although the hashtag originated on Twitter, it has also been widely used on Facebook with more than 12 million posts and reactions within just the first 24 hours. In a phone interview with The Associated Press, actress Alyssa Milano, one of the first personalities to spread the hashtag, stated that “[her] hope is people will get the idea of the magnitude, of just how many people have been affected by this in the world, in our lifetimes, in this country. The most important thing that it did was to shift the conversation away from the predator and to the victim.”
In order to fix this problem, we need to continually address sexual harassment and assault for what it is and shift our focus onto the survivors. Remember that your voice matters and you, too, are part of the conversation.
Amy Huynh is a first-year aerospace engineering major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.