This is the first post in a two-part series about the role schools can play in the #MeToo movement. Read Part 2.
Heartbreaking accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault have been flooding social media and news feeds ever since #MeToo erupted in October 2017. Some of these accounts share details, but many more are simple declarations of a shared experience using the hashtag #MeToo. The sheer volume is sobering and points to a horrifying truth: Sexual harassment and assault are everywhere.
It has been interesting to see the reactions of my guy friends to #MeToo. Many felt shock and horror when their daughters posted #MeToo. While it is horrifying, it didn’t surprise me at all. Most of my female friends have jumped onto social media with a #MeToo post as well. These abuses are endemic among women but remain a hidden issue for many men. As the weeks go by, more and more women are coming forward with their own #MeToo stories and are struggling with the memories unearthed by this movement.
Yes, it is true that sexual harassment and sexual assault can happen to both males and females, and it is wrong no matter who is targeted. However, the facts reveal that females are disproportionately targeted, usually by males. In large part, this is due to the way our young people are socialized into prevailing gender roles and norms that support males treating females as objects for personal gratification. Ultimately, these attitudes and behaviors harm both the target and the perpetrator of harassment and assault.
Additionally, more and more people have been named as perpetrators. The horrifying revelations regarding Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuses of female gymnasts has rocked my hometown, my alma mater, and the Olympic gymnastics world. His assaults date back to 1994. Many of the girls and women he assaulted told someone; no one stopped him until now.
Responses to #MeToo
How have people responded to #MeToo and its outcry against sexual harassment and sexual assault? Some have been negative, voicing concerns that accusations could be unfounded or leveled out of spite. Others have been concerned that due process has been ignored before people have been declared guilty. Many responses have been supportive. People have applauded the bravery of those who have told their experiences and are pushing for big changes. Time’s Up was formed by 300 women in Hollywood to fund a legal defense fund. They state, “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” The important outcome is that people are finally talking about it and taking actions. Perhaps this issue has reached a tipping point. Stay tuned for part two of this blog series. It focuses on solutions.