Men and women are speaking out against sexual assault and harassment after a Hollywood executive was put under investigation for those actions.
Harvey Weinstein is known for his production work with Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech. Recently his name became synonymous with misogyny and sexual harassment after multiple women came forward with stories of Weinstein forcing sexual acts on actresses and harassing them throughout the past 20 years.
Actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to encourage women to use the hashtag “#MeToo” if they were sexually harassed or assaulted.
In just 48 hours, nearly a million people had used the hashtag, now amounting to several million. The hashtag is meant to inform people of the magnitude of the issue of assault and empower survivors to talk about experiences they haven’t felt comfortable sharing in the past.
But for all those who feel empowered by the trend, some feel ashamed and forced to relive memories of their traumatic experiences.
Some also are nervous their stories won’t be taken seriously, while others genuinely fear for their lives wondering if their attacker will read their online posts. Some women even live with their attackers, whether that’s within a marriage or other intimate relationship.
Such is also true with child rape cases wherein the child’s attacker is a parent or family member.
Sexual assault takes many forms, but the most egregious is rape. One-in-five women and one-in-71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. One-in-five women and one-in-16 men will be sexually assaulted in college. Out of those, only 63 percent of cases are reported to the police, and only 12 percent of child rape cases are reported.
With this in mind, people should remain sensitive and not pressure survivors to share their experiences just because of a trend.
While speaking up about assault is important, and this trend is raising awareness of a huge problem, it’s okay to stay silent for one’s own reasons, not owing an explanation to anyone.
Some people also argue the trend puts too much focus on sexual assault survivors instead of condemning the perpetrators, which has resulted in some men using the hashtags “#IHave” and “#ItWasMe,” addressing their wrongful actions and identifying themselves as part of the problem. This helps take the pressure away from survivors to share their stories.
Survivors should feel empowered to talk about their experiences in hopes of justice or as a way of healing, but silence is still valid and understood when dealing with such a sensitive issue.