#MeToo — Believing Survivors Of Sexual Abuse Should Always Be Trending. 17/10/2017
Published by SFCHRONICLE
Anita Hill got death threats after saying that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.
Inspired by the women who recently revealed their stories of abuse at the hands of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, the hashtag #MeToo quickly trended on Twitter this week. We have actress Alyssa Milano to thank for re-igniting a campaign — started by activist Tarana Burke several years ago — when she invited people to share those two words if they have been victims of sexual assault or harassment.
And share they did.
Though the sheer volume of #MeToo posts — along with the sickening accounts from the women Weinstein assaulted them — is appalling, the number of survivors coming forward isn’t what got my attention.
It was the recognition that these women (and men) were being respected and believed. All I could think was, “It’s about time!”
As someone who has worked to end domestic violence and sexual assault for more than 35 years, I can tell you that claims of sexual violence are very often met with skepticism or denial. Look no further than the recent mistrial of Bill Cosby to examine classic victim-blaming. In particular, a juror expressed disbelief of a victim’s testimony because of what she wore when she went to Cosby’s home.
You may recall Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony in front of members of Congress about the sexual harassment from her former boss and then-nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. Hill was asked to recount the humiliating details for a congressional panel in nationally televised testimony. One senator asked her, “If what you say this man said to you occurred … why in God’s name would you ever speak to a man like that the rest of your life?” The public’s reaction was equally hostile; Hill even received death threats.
Now, as we see #MeToo flooding Twitter and Facebook feeds, I hope we are finally at a tipping point where survivors’ stories are viewed as credible. Will our primary reaction going forward be a collective embrace of victims — and accountability for perpetrators?
That is up to us.
We all have the power to create an environment for victims of sexual violence and harassment that will meet them with empathy and support. But many survivors feel too much fear or shame to report abusive acts to their friends, family or authorities. Let’s change that narrative, and instead shape our culture into one that doesn’t require Weinstein’s predatory acts to get our attention.
Here are a few ideas we can start with:
More on "Me Too" Campaign
•Be an upstander. If you see or hear something abusive happening to a friend or colleague, say something. A number of actors have spoken out and expressed their regret for being complicit in allowing Weinstein’s behavior to go on for years.
•Words matter — and abusive or derogatory language about women should not be dismissed as “locker room talk.”
•Start by talking to boys while they’re young. Consider introducing a program like Coaching Boys Into Men to the middle and high schools in your area. CBIM, the only Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-endorsed national program of its kind, helps athletic coaches lead weekly 15-minute conversations with young male athletes about respect for women and healthy relationships. We’re proud that the San Francisco Unified School District recently decided to implement the program in high schools district-wide, and we hope other districts will follow suit.
•Have a clear workplace policy that addresses gender-based violence and sexual harassment, and a protocol that takes into account the needs, privacy and considerations of the survivors for enforcing it.
•Watch a movie. Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary about toxic masculinity, “The Mask You Live In,” will open your eyes to ways we can help combat denigration of women in our professional and private lives.
I’m optimistic that the #MeToo phenomenon and reactions to Harvey Weinstein are indicators of a breakthrough on this issue. Let’s ensure that believing survivors is always trending.