Mine was as an undergraduate. Even though I went to the university healthcare system, was screened and reported it to a doctor, I didn’t know it was technically sexual assault until years after the incident. Fifteen years later, I distinctly recall my inebriated self feebly muttering no several times. To this day, I wonder had the medical staff informed me, “being too drunk to say no,” was still an assault, whether I would have reported the incident. I also occasionally wonder how many other victims were like me, not even aware of their victimization.
If you have been following social media for a number of days since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and assault allegations broke, you’ll have noticed a new campaign crossing the divide of social media platforms. The #MeToo campaign has been trending on both Twitter and Facebook alike, as well as others posting #IBelieveYou.
While I typically don’t join the bandwagon on social media platforms, this particular campaign struck a chord with me. Partly because of my victim advocacy background, partly because of my social work knowledge, and partly because I feel it important to let others know that sexual harassment and assault can occur to anyone.
And, alas, every. single. one. of. us. knows a “Harvey Weinstein” in our lives.
Or, we have encountered a “Harvey Weinstein.”
There is a tendency to victim-shame in our society – we analyze what he/she wore, how much he/she drank, how he/she behaved. We dismiss boys’ “locker room talk/banter,” and casually say, “Boys will be boys.”
I’m guilty of it myself – I have a tendency to analyze the situations leading up to an alleged assault, concentrating on the factors that led to the event. Factors that made the victim an “easy target.” There are people looking for an easy target. And, that night in college, I was an easy target.
However, being an “easy target” does not excuse what happened to me. Nor does it excuse the instances of harassment and assault that occur every day to men and women.
Sexual assault is about nothing less than power and control – the need of a perpetrating individual to exert power and control over another person.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls will be sexually assaulted by age 18; one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18. Approximately 63% of all sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement, for various reasons.
Those statistics are both sobering, and unacceptable.
Sexual violence transcends race, denomination, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. It transcends the “Mrs. Robinson” stereotypes, and age.
So, what does this have to do with gratitude? How can anything on this particular topic bring up feelings of gratitude?!
I am grateful this topic is being brought to light – that people’s consciouses are being roused from the “head in the sand” mentality that has allowed the rape culture to persist for decades.
This campaign is raising awareness to the victims that they are not alone. They see, perhaps for the first time, family members or friends – women and men they have respected for years, but didn’t know about – standing in solidarity. They see others saying, “Me, too.”
And, for many who have not experienced harassment or assault, victims see others who believe them – regardless of a legal case. We don’t need legal victories to stand with, and acknowledge, victimization.
Instead, we need to simply acknowledge and stand in solidarity with the victim.
For parents, we need to put forth the extra effort to say, “Not for my children, and not my children,” by stemming our own prejudices and ensuring we do not allow the rape culture to persist in our own homes.
Our culture and society owes it to each other to stop the madness. Stop the power plays and control.
Our culture needs to stop supporting the perpetrators – and, to see the victims, male and female alike, standing in the shadows…
…both the victims who report, and the ones who do not.
Acknowledging the issue requires us to create a better future for our children and future generations, not just by declaring “Me, too,” but perhaps more importantly, “I believe you. I am sorry this happened to you. What do you need from me at this time?”
So, I am grateful for this particular social media campaign. It has gotten a dialogue going, and is allowing thousands to find support from the men and women in their lives. It is allowing some light to shine in the darkness of power and control that has permeated every segment of our society.
I believe you.
What are you most grateful for this week?
Until next week, dear reader…