Doing Better With #MeToo
I have a few thoughts on the #MeToo campaign.
This campaign, and everything it stands for/against, is (largely) a good thing. Attempts to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence should be celebrated, and the courage it has taken those who have shared their stories is truly remarkable.
That said, I have a few requests.
1. I ask that, if you share an article with a #MeToo story - and many of you are now sharing the Players’ Tribune essay by WNBA player Breanna Stewart - you include a trigger warning. This can be as simple as the following: “Warning: contains graphic details that can be triggering for anyone who has experienced trauma”. I’m a psychology PhD student working with sexual assault survivors, and I can tell you that exposure to these types of articles can trigger a range of trauma-related symptoms, including flashbacks, dissociation, nightmares, and panic attacks. No one can fully know what they are clicking on when they come across an article like this on social media. Please honor survivors’ autonomy in protecting themselves by including a trigger warning for posts like this.
2. I ask that you consider the other ways this campaign has impacted survivors of rape and sexual assault. While many of them might feel comfortable and empowered in sharing their stories (and should be supported when choosing to do so), others have a very different reaction. They feel that they are not being a “good” survivor if they don’t disclose their assault to the world. They feel hurt, confused, and angry at the idea that you will only validate and believe their stories if they are published widely on social media with a hashtag. That the only way they will receive support in the form of likes or comments is if they let you in. Let’s be very clear. Trauma survivors don’t need to let us in. Trauma survivors owe us nothing. They shouldn’t have to relive that horror simply to get the world to believe them and fight on their behalf. If we lived in a world where it was always safe to own one’s story as a survivor, perhaps things might be different. But we don’t live in that world.
3. I ask that you familiarize yourself with the origins of the “Me Too” campaign.
4. Finally, I ask that you personally interrogate how this repackaged #MeToo campaign relates to rape culture. Living as a survivor can mean feeling gaslit repeatedly by friends, family, police officers, the legal system, and society at large. Many are made to feel over and over again that what happened to them didn’t actually happen. Whether it’s before (“Why did you drink so much?”), during (“Why didn’t you say ‘no’ louder?”), or after (“You’re going out tonight? Is that a good idea after what happened to you last month?”)….survivors are constantly blamed and rarely allowed to own their experience. While the MeToo campaign has done some good, imagine if this campaign didn’t require survivors to convince us that rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment was real. Imagine if the campaign was, instead, “HimToo”, and men (yes, “assault can happen to anyone”, but statistics) who have ever raped, assaulted, or harassed someone were publicly identified. Imagine if those of us who have ever laughed or stayed silent after a joke or comment that contributed to rape culture were the ones saying “me too”.
We can, and must, do better.