The flood of #metoo’s on my social media feeds has been an emotional sight to behold. What started as a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal has become a rallying call for victims of sexual harassment across the nation, and even the world.
As a victim of sexual assault I cannot find the words to fully describe how I feel. I have been harboring the shame of what has happened to me for years. To be able to openly air that experience with thousands of women, men, and gender-nonconforming individuals is something that I did not think would happen in my lifetime. This (hopefully) is a watershed moment for how our society will view sexual assault.
Yet another part of me is deeply skeptical of this moment's potential to catalyze long-lasting change. People have for years had to remind others that victims of sexual assault could be their friends, daughters, and wives.
A couple years back when Steubenville was in the news because two teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were only sentenced three years in juvenile prison for raping a sixteen year old girl, this argument was used quite a bit. The mother of the victim told the press: “I ask every person listening what if this was your daughter, your sister or your friend?” Her statement was picked up by several news pundits and even used in an address by President Obama. We were asked once more to find a personal reason for why rape is wrong.
Conservatives apparently received that advice with such ambivalence that they elected a perpetrator of sexual harassment to the office of President. Our beliefs have become polarized so significantly in the last couple of decades that I do not believe this type of messaging will reach the people that often dismiss victims of sexual assault and harassment out of hand.
It is cathartic. It means something to the thousands of people typing it, and the millions more that share our values. It may even reach several million people caught in the middle politically, but I do not think conservative men and women will budge, and in order to make headway with family planning, Title IV, and more, we need them to move.
I wish wanting to protect people from assault would be enough, but history has shown us that this is not the case. I don't know what messaging will be effective, but we need to think about it in the weeks and months to come.
This war against sexual harassment and assault is far from over, but I’m nonetheless celebrating the battle won this month, because it was important.
Let's keep it up; I know I will. #metoo.