Written by Isabella Tarrant
#MeToo was launched a year ago. Hollywood’s biggest producers, directors and actors were exposed for abusing their power over actors and actresses through sexual violence. It was the catalyst for millions of ordinary people to speak up and admit they too have been a victim. The campaign may be a year old, but the needs for an end to sexual assault is still as strong as it was when the movement began.
In October 2017, to try and help people understand the magnitude of the problem Alyssa Milano tweeted “if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘Me Too’ as a reply.” The tweet received 10,000 replies within the first 20 minutes. By November “#MeToo” had been tweeted 2.5 million times across 85 countries. To further enforce the magnitude of the issue at hand it’s been found that one in five women have been sexually assaulted. Less than 4% of men will experience it in their adult lives. When we are faced with these statistics the obvious question to ask is, are they reported? RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) have found that out of 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 will be reported to the police. They then looked into why people would not report their assault and found this, between 2005-2010;
– 20% of victims were scared of retaliation, 13% believed that the police wouldn’t do anything to help, 8% thought it wasn’t important enough to report.
When we consider this study is around a decade old, the 8% who believed it wasn’t important enough to report it, highlights that there really is strength in numbers. Just one suggestion of tweeting #MeToo saw 2.5 million people, in the space of less than a month, admit that they were victims too. It demonstrates the need for a conversation about sexual violence. People are not alone with their stories and can find others that will stand with them.
Despite clear solidarity amongst victims, the message we still seem to be receiving is what to do in order to avoid unwanted sexual attention. From a female perspective, to experience and process sexual assault is difficult enough, let alone speak openly about what happened to you. But if you are able to speak up and report it, the questions are; What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Where were you? Were you by yourself? Unfortunately, it is far easier to point the blame at someone for what they’re wearing, or for walking home by themselves when its dark, than it is to admit an individual is capable of sexually assaulting someone. This was demonstrated all too clearly with the trial in Ireland where the victim’s underwear was called in to prove consent. The 17-year-old was wearing a lace front thong the night she was raped and it was used against her. We are now amongst a system where the question of ‘what were you wearing?’ has been taken a step further – now the garments that can’t be seen has been used against victims. If we want to see a real change in the way sexual violence is dealt with, in both everyday life and in the legal system then the first step has to be seeing and responding to victims as victims, not as the cause.
When we look at the high-profile cases of Harvey Weinstein or at Kevin Spacey their actions cannot be passed off as a mistake, or an accident. They are not ‘sex addicts’, they are violators and must be held accountable as such. The recent news that the judge in the Weinstein case, has agreed to ‘dismiss’ the lone charge of Lucia Evans’, who claims she was forced to perform oral sex on him in 2004 is heart-breaking. Furthermore, the quote from Weinstein’s lawyer that ‘the integrity of these proceedings has been compromised’ is true. Whether you believe her individually, the thought that Weinstein could get away with any of the counts he has been accused of is sickening and leaves the idea that justice won’t be fully served.
It isn’t just Weinstein who is a perpetrator to these heinous acts. One of the first men in Hollywood to speak out about his own sexual assault was the beloved, Brooklyn 99 actor, Terry Crews. In a series of tweets, he shares his story, claiming he had a feeling of PTSD through the Weinstein accusations coming out as “this sort of thing happened to ME.” Crews makes the point of answering the question everyone had as more people were coming forward of, why didn’t you say anything at the time? Saying he didn’t want to be ostracised from Hollywood due to the “power n influence” his predator had. It brings us back to the set of questions listed before, where instead of searching for who is to blame, the blame is pointed at the victim.
So, when we think about how far the #MeToo movement has progressed over a year, the take away is this. #MeToo saw people beginning to find their voice. When we consider that there is a 17-year-old girl in Ireland, who has her underwear -used against her in a court case, the response has been remarkable. Protesting in the street by holding up their own underwear, the #ThisIsNotConsent has seen people sharing photographs of their underwear on twitter to show their support. Regardless of what is still occurring in the world due to sexual violence in the year following this campaign, the fact is that there has been a cry for change and it will only continue to grow.
In order to keep the #MeToo movement going, people have to share. Whether it be to friends, family or a therapist, telling people you trust is an integral part of dealing with the trauma. If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence and wants advice. Or if you are interested in getting involved with charities to help victims. Here is a list of a few places that can offer advice, support and guidance.