The last few months of 2017 can be summed up in two words: Me Too. The “Me Too” Movement was sparked after several women spoke up about sexual assault and its prevalence in Hollywood.
The initial claims were made against Harvey Weinstein, a film producer, in September. No one could have predicted the movement that would follow those women coming forward. These claims triggered an outpour of bravery from women and men, alike, all throughout Hollywood. This movement highlighted some of Hollywood’s elite, as well as, men and women who work a 9 to 5, as survivors.
Christy Waldren, the College Coordinator at Restore Rochester, has even seen the movements influence in her office in Rochester, NY. “We have seen an increase in the calls to our hotline and in the services that we provide,” said Waldren.
Barbara LeSavoy, PhD, Director of Women and Gender Studies at the College at Brockport, expressed her happiness with the expansion of the movement, but wishes those involved would acknowledge that “Me Too” is far from the first of its kind.
“To say that we have never had movements like this is a bit coercive. The movements have always been there, feminists or women and gender studies individuals have always championed them. Sadly, it’s sort of been like white noise. However, with “Me Too” the messenger is Hollywood. There’s a piece of that that gets bigger attention and intercepts a different audience,” said LeSavoy. While “Me Too” is not the first of its kind, one cannot deny its impact on society. The movement has brought out survivors with claims of assaults from years ago now that they feel safe enough to do so.
“A critique of the movement is ‘why didn’t you say something sooner?’ There are people saying “Me Too” about something that happened 20 or 30 years ago. No one who asks that question understands what’s at stake; what it means to uncover; what it means to step up and say “Me Too” and the consequences of that,” said LeSavoy.
The question of ‘Why now?’ is what keeps survivors from coming forward down the line about their assault. Waldren recognizes why it is important to not ask ‘why now?’, but instead ‘how can I help?’.
“It’s important for victims to know that it’s okay and that with most people delayed disclosure come usually a year, sometimes longer [after the incident] and it is quite normal. It’s based upon various factors. It could be their connection to the offender. They have a fear of not being believed. The best way to support people by creating a space to feel safe enough to come forward,” said Waldren.
The relationship between an assailant and victim is one that is abused, which then results in the assault. LeSavoy wants this power dynamic to not be forgotten in this important moment in time. “I think in some ways the conversation is being somewhat misguided by the notion of where “Me Too” came from. It’s also coming from the differences in power and how we understand those differences.”
Both LeSavoy and Walden believe the conversation about sexual assault is shifting, but there is still a battle to get to it where is should be. “We’re slowly, but surely trying to change the culture. We have to start believing survivors when they come forward, support them, and just get them connected with the resources they need,” said Waldren
The “Me Too” Movement may not be the first of its kind, but for this generation it is the biggest. It’s changing the way we talk about sexual assault.