By Rachel Yehoda, Program Coordinator (Prevention & Education)
Speaking out against sexual violence was an integral part of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign theme: Embrace Your Voice. Every day, we have the opportunity to speak up and use our words to create a culture where sexual violence will not be tolerated. As the national conversation about sexual assault and harassment continues, we see thousands of people embracing their own voice and taking to social media to spread awareness and tell their story. With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, social media technology has become a popular platform for survivors and advocates to address these issues. In this quarter’s Safety Sync, we look at these social media movements, and the power and impact they can have on spreading awareness of the problem of sexual violence.
The popularity of various social media networks has grown significantly in recent years and social media has become a crucial platform for activism. With social media, we are more connected with each other than ever before. We have the ability to share content across multiple platforms and reach hundreds of thousands of people. Activists in the sexual violence prevention movement have used social media and hashtags to start important conversations and work towards creating a culture shift in the way we approach the issue of sexual violence. Among the most recent and well-known examples of movements on social media that engage in the dialogue about sexual assault and harassment are the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
Though #MeToo has gained momentum over the last several months, the #MeToo movement was started in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke. The movement originally focuses on providing survivors with pathways to healing from their trauma, with a particular emphasis on amplifying the voices of women of color. A New York Times piece by Claire Cain Miller, “How Social Media Gives Women a Voice”, reflects on the impact that social media can have on this kind of movement. #MeToo founder Tarana Burke is quoted, and provides her own reflection of seeing the #MeToo movement transform into a global social media phenomenon:
“Social media changed it dramatically,” Tarana Burke said, talking about the #MeToo movement, which she started in 2006 and which went viral last year. “The internet is a great equalizer. The hashtag created a global community of support. That was a beautiful thing to watch.”
The #MeToo movement garnered such a strong response on Twitter and other social media platforms, that it led to the creation of a new movement—Time’s Up. The Time’s Up movement was started by a group of over 300 influential women in the entertainment industry responding the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.[ii] Time’s Up is a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live." [iii] Time’s Up was at the forefront of the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, where celebrities and activists wore ‘Time’s Up’ pins and black attire to raise awareness and stand together in this unifying movement. The hashtag #TimesUp and #WhyWeWearBlack picked up momentum quickly as people took to Twitter to advocate for change and encourage others to take action in the fight against sexual harassment.
The use of these hashtags has helped contribute to the ongoing national conversation on sexual assault and harassment. Utilizing social media and hashtags as a platform for communicating your sexual violence prevention and awareness messages is a powerful way of reaching large groups of people and making an impact. These messages can help contribute to creating meaningful change and amplify efforts to prevent sexual violence before it happens.
Cain Miller, Claire. "How Social Media Gives Women a Voice." The New York Times. February 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/social-media-gives-women-a-voice.html.
[ii] Buckley, Cara. “Powerful Hollywood Women Unveil Anti-Harassment Action Plan.” The New York Times. January 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/movies/times-up-hollywood-women-sexual-harassment.html
[iii] Time’s Up. Accessed March 1, 2018. https://www.timesupnow.com/