In 2013, the FBI reported 80,000 rape cases in just that year alone. Even more disturbing is that is not a complete number. A U.S. Department of Justice survey estimated that around 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and are thus absent from this number. We often tend to distance ourselves from these statistics, thinking they could never happen as often as the numbers say. A recent trending hashtag would unfortunately defend these statistics. Go to any social media source, scroll through the newsfeeds, and you will begin to understand.
As I go through my own, it’s heartbreaking. Everyone I know is posting #MeToo, and for those of you who don’t understand what this means, here is the original post by Tarana Burke to which your friends’ posts are responses: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote, ‘Me Too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
This hashtag, in just a single day, was used 109,541 times, according to a social analytics company known as Crimson Hexagon.
109,541. In a single day. And the posts keep flooding in.
As I read my friends’ posts over the past few days, I contemplated also making it my status. I thought about what was stopping me, and the only conclusion I could come to was the idea of what other people would think.
My embarrassment was not the result of my own doing, but the way society treats those who have been sexualized and mistreated. Despite my reservations, #MeToo also became my status.
Shortly after I made my post, a friend and fellow Union student, Charmaine Ang, senior music major, responded, “Sometimes, we get so ashamed and embarrassed that we actually question if something was wrong or if we are just crazy for thinking something did happen.” There are thousands of others, perhaps even those you wouldn’t suspect, because they “act normal” or don’t talk about it, who have been mistreated in some way. There’s even a high probability that you’re a victim.
The real question is, what’re we going to do about it? We see the statistics. We see our friends and people we know coming forward on this issue. What’re we going to do? Another comment made on my post was by Glen Milam, a youth leader and mentor in my life. He wrote, “I am so sorry...As a man, as a mentor of young men, I am still sorry. I am guilty in several known instances, and probably more that I don't recognize. I have also been the victim of groping by another man. On all accounts I am sorry.” Later, on his own page, he made a post that read:
Maybe you’ve crossed a line with a woman (I have). Maybe you’ve dismissed a woman who spoke up about a man who did (I have). Maybe you’ve failed to speak up when a friend or a colleague behaved inappropriately (I have)...All of us have done something that made a woman uncomfortable, and many of us have crossed harder lines. If you stop and think instead of getting defensive, you know it’s true. I’m watching every woman I know post ‘Me too’ tonight. It’s making me sick. So if you’re a man, and you’re ready to step up, share this. It means you’ll be conscious of how your actions can harm others, and change your actions. It means you’ll say ‘I believe you’ to women. It means you’ll tell men--your friends, your colleagues, powerful men-- ‘Knock it off.’
This post began to appear several other times on my newsfeed as well, and is something I believe could be the first step towards change. However, there is far more to be done, and not just for men.
Do the right thing, stand up and make a change TODAY. There are several activist groups right here in Lincoln that you can get involved in, including I’ve Got a Name, a non-profit organization working against sex slavery. Change doesn’t have to mean joining a group, though. Recognizing the errors of our society and working to fix them begins with ourselves.
This movement isn’t about just saying you’ve been wronged and mistreated. This is a call to be a voice of support for all women who have experienced sexual harassment. This is a call to stand up for every boy and man who has experienced this abuse but feels ashamed for his experience. This is a call to stop shaming others for events outside of their control.
“Give justice to the weak...maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).
Kayla Miller is a junior studying nursing.