Recent news of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassing dozens of women has taken over social media and started a national conversation about sexual harassment. Thousands of survivors have contributed to a chorus of voices saying, #MeToo. But remember that if you are a survivor, you don’t have to say “Me too” to be heard. You get to decide whether and how to share your story; you owe it to no one.
If you are a survivor or have a loved one who has experienced sexual violence, there are 17 rape crisis and recovery centers throughout Maryland offering confidential services, including crisis intervention and counseling, hospital accompaniment for victims, legal services, and 24-hour crisis hotlines. You can find more information about these resources on MCASA’s website.
Sexual harassment isn’t just limited to Hollywood; it is a pervasive issue in every corner of society. We tend to dismiss seemingly “minor” incidents, but they contribute to a culture that permits more severe forms of sexual violence, and hold victims back in other ways. In her article in The Huffington Post, reporter Laura Bassett points out that because sexual harassment in the workplace is so normalized, those who experience it are unsure of how to respond and often do not report it. “This is the kind of harassment women face regularly ― the kind we’re unsure how to name,” writes Bassett. “The kind that doesn’t rise to the level of something we would report, because it would just make the workplace more uncomfortable for us and put our own careers at risk, not theirs.” To read the full article, please click here.
In her powerful op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Del. Shelley Hettleman addresses her two children, both about to begin their professional lives post-college, and urges them to speak up against harassment. “As you begin your careers, you will seek out the wise counsel of elders in your fields,” writes Del. Hettleman. “And you should. But I want to remind you, just like I did when you were young children: If someone treats you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to tell someone.” Del. Hettleman encourages those who have experienced harassment to "be brave" and come forward. “Secrecy is a cloak by which an abuser can continue to prey upon others,” she writes. “But we also know, and research bears out, that when women know they are not alone, they are more willing to come forward.”
Though #MeToo has recently gained increased attention, it originated in 2006 as a program of Just Be Inc. by activist Tarana Burke. The movement focuses on providing survivors with pathways to healing from their trauma and creating safe spaces for this healing to occur. To learn more about how the #MeToo movement began and Tarana Burke’s work, click here.
#MeToo has brought together thousands of people impacted by sexual harassment and assault, and for many survivors has been a reminder that they are not alone. Whether or not you decide to participate, though, the movement may bring up some difficult feelings, and may be retraumatizing. Remember to take care of yourself, whether that means limiting social media use, creating time for exercise and other activities that ground you in your body, or whatever other forms of self-care you prefer. You are not obligated to share your story or to expose yourself to triggering material; your only obligation is to yourself and your healing process.
Here are some other resources to check out:
Our thanks to the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault for their work on this issue, helping to provide the basis for this message, and working together to support survivors!