For those who have been seeing various Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts with the hashtag #MeToo, you need to know what it stands for. In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, women and men everywhere have taken the opportunity to spark a conversation about sexual assault and abuse.
At first it was centered in Hollywood, a plethora of actresses came forward to speak their truth regarding their experiences with Harvey Weinstein and similar sentiments were echoed by women all over the industry. The list is horrifyingly long, and it seems a new woman is added each day. Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne and Gwyneth Paltrow are among some of the women who spoke out about their experiences.
Actresses weren't the only people to step forward with sexual assault allegations, women AND men from all different professions and industries spoke up sharing their sexual abuse stories with the hashtag #MeToo. One that struck me especially hard was Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who detailed her horrific experiences with Dr.Larry Nassar. She was 13 years old when the abuse began. The athlete took to Twitter to share her story.
#MeToo is an initiative to show people how prevalent sexual assault and harassment is in our society. Men and women from all industries, professions, and walks of life joined the conversation to help facilitate change. Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I was touched by the people I knew sharing #MeToo, some complete with stories, others simply sharing the hashtag. Regardless, the message was the same- they had been exposed to sexual assault at one point in their life. This made me think.
It made me think back to a friend's basement in highschool, when I specifically told a boy "no" and he refused to acknowledge it.
It made me think back to being alone with a guy friend and being shamed into giving him what he wanted, despite my obvious resistance.
It made me think back to sleeping at a friend's house and having someone come into my bed without permission or any prior consent. They wouldn't leave.
It made me think back to being shamed and made fun of for my sexual history, even when the advances weren't entirely mutual or welcome.
It made me think back to when I first moved to NYC, when I would walk past construction workers and turn the volume up on my headphones to drown out the paralyzing anxiety that came from constantly hearing disgusting sexual innuendos.
It made me think back to when a man I used to date saw me out one night and decided to follow me home, waiting for me outside my apartment even though I had explicitly told him I never wanted to see him again.
It made me think back to when a man started screaming at me in a club, because I refused his sexual advances. "You can't dress like a whore and then not be one."
It made me think back to a male acquaintance pushing me into a bathroom and locking the door, despite my protests.
It made me think back to when one of my best friends came home one night, sobbing uncontrollably holding her shoes in her hand, because she had run from two men who had taken advantage of her at a bar.
It makes me think today, every morning when I get dressed, how men will look at me that day based on the clothing I put on.
The problem is, we are afraid to say no. The bigger problem is that when we do, it is not accepted. We have been made to feel powerless.
I'm tired of playing defense. My friends are tired of playing defense. Women are tired of playing defense.
The truth is, it doesn't matter what you wear, or really even what you look like. Unwelcome sexual attention, harassment and assault can literally happen to ANYONE at almost anytime. I've experienced it in a dress and heels, and also in sweatpants and t-shirt. I don't care if a woman is walking around topless, NOTHING validates sexual assault. No woman asks for it, but people always find reasons to say that she did.
To everyone who has shared their stories, you are incredibly brave and I applaud you for using your platform.
In darkness, there is light. I can only hope that the recent events with Harvey Weinstein can change the issues surrounding sexual abuse moving forward.