Why "Me Too" Isn't Enough For Me
If all the women, femme, trans/feminine-types 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.
When I first saw those words written on a friend’s status, my heart sank; followed by numbness that started in my legs and crawled its way up to my chest. Then the thoughts started racing: I’m a coward if I don’t participate in this; but what will family members think when they see this? What will people say about me if I do or do not copy/paste? Do I really want the attention and sympathy that will follow when people see that I, too, was another college rape statistic?
What’s holding me back the most from sharing “me too” is the thought of people like my grandparents, aunts, and uncles seeing it and suddenly knowing much more about me than what I usually choose to share at Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings. Becoming a victim of rape in college is not something I talk about regularly, if at all. Maybe part of the universal problem with sexual assault and harassment is that people like me should talk about it more, but after all the panic attacks, bouts of depression, and months of therapy, I’m finally in a place where it isn’t all I think about. So when it comes to writing “me too” in a status, I am struggling with whether I look out for my own mental well-being, or think about the bigger picture, the overall cause.
Twitter user @reappropriate brings up some interesting points on the trending #MeToo hashtag, questioning why assault survivors have to put their private stories on virtual display so that people can finally start truly caring about sexual assault. In a thread of tweets, this user points out the fact that the “magnitude of the problem” has been made clear for quite a long time now, with sexual assault statistics frequently in the news, and discussed by politicians all over the world, even by former United States Presidents and Vice Presidents. This hashtag leaves responsibility up to survivors to educate the masses on something they should already know; and while some may be open and forthcoming enough to share with the world their experience, the majority of assault survivors are not. When an estimated 90% of undergraduate college students refrain from reporting sexual violence, we can’t expect them to announce it on Facebook or Twitter either.
It is clear that sexual assault is a universal problem; an epidemic of sorts, especially because, in trending hashtags like #metoo, those committing these assaults are not recognized. They, specifically white males, are often institutionally protected. A perfect example is the man who raped me; a white male in college ROTC, on his way to a career in the United States Army. A case was pursued against him to involuntarily discharge him for his multiple sexual assaults against women. My written witness statement was used against him and at first it worked. He was discharged. Within months he was able to appeal the case and the Army let him right back in.
This man still takes no responsibility for any of the rapes or assaults he committed. As positive as the intentions behind the “me too” movement, whose eyes is it really meant to be opening? Sure, people will see how many of their Facebook friends have been sexually assaulted, and then what? Will it suddenly force guilty men like my own attacker to own up to their assaults? If this trending status and hashtag stops at least one college man from taking advantage of a drunk girl at a party, then perhaps we can consider it a success. But we need to hold men accountable for their behavior, too.
The strength of assault survivors who are coming forward with their “me too” statuses and hashtags is admirable; and hopefully their vulnerability provokes change in at least one of their friends or followers. For me, however, it just isn’t enough. I expect more from the men in my life and this world when it comes to owning their mistakes and the pain they cause others. With a shared understanding between men and women regarding consent and acceptable sexual conduct, we can achieve a united front against assault. We can empower victims to report sexual assault with the confidence that they will be taken seriously and treated with respect. We can report harassment when we see it and hear it. We can hold our sons to higher standards. The revolution against sexual assault and harassment asks us who will stand up with victims and hold perpetrators responsible for their actions; it’s our responsibility to say “me too.”