This week it became a revived movement. Ten years ago, Tarana Burke started it to support young women of color who had been abused. A week ago a post went up on social media from actress Alyssa Milano. "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
The goal was not to fix sexual harassment or assault, but to just define how prevalent it is. It didn't take long to start to wonder #WhoHasn't.
Millions of women told their stories. A Wisconsin congresswoman, Gwen Moore, wrote, "I forced myself to survive so that the next little girl or woman wouldn't have to feel alone." For a time the top trending hashtag in Pakistan was #MeToo. Israel, France, India, Botswana. The globe checked in and it was a chorus. Me. Too.
With the news everyone in Hollywood seemed to already know breaking into the national airwaves about the sexual predation of movie star maker Harvey Weinstein, something seemed amiss. It's not just Hollywood. It's not just Washington. It's everywhere. People knew about Weinstein, they know about their boss, they know about military situations, they know about how the waitress is made to feel, and they are quiet. Their silence is permission. Silence is the octane that allows rape culture to exist.
Just so we are clear, sexual harassment is "unwanted sexual advances or remarks." Here are national numbers for the epidemic: 81 percent of women have experienced verbal harassment. One in three of them had it happen at work. Seventy-one percent of them never report the incidents. Three out of four of those who do experience retaliation.
Every 98 seconds, a woman is sexually assaulted in America. Seventy percent of those are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
The numbers for Alaska women are higher than the national. Guess what statistics we don't track? If 3 in 5 women are sexually assaulted, what is the percentage of men who sexually assault?
A few years ago the front pages of this newspaper had story after story about the National Guard's sexual assaults and harassment and cover-up of it by our former governor. Women soldiers were repeatedly targeted, assaulted and retaliated against by their superiors. The men who did believe them were fired. That was in 2013. May 7 of that same year, Donald Trump tweeted, "26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together." That's the attitude that allowed this to happen. What do we expect? Oh, how about women should be able to do a job they are trained for and not have to trade their employment for rape. There's a start.
In answer to "#MeToo," there was "#ItWasMe." One man wrote: "Rape culture doesn't just deal in the overt. I'm now reflecting on all the times I treated 'No' as a challenge and wrote it off because it ended the way I wanted. I'm also kind of disgusted with how I've responded to some of those who have confided their stories to me in the past. Men, we can do better. We MUST believe women and evaluate our behavior towards them, especially in front of our children. You might think you're exempt for whatever reason, but we grew up in the patriarchy … we're literally conditioned to think that way."
It's a start.
Another reply I got was, "As long as we hold girls accountable too."
OK, buddy. We have been holding women as victims accountable for the actions of predatory men for a very long time. Adam isn't even held responsible for eating an apple from the tree of knowledge — that was Eve's fault. See? It goes back a while. Women are over it.
Tarana Burke explained, " 'Me Too' is about using the power of empathy to stomp out shame." Before we can have empathy we have to have awareness. Yesterday I saw a car in traffic with a homemade "#Me too." bumper sticker taped to the inside of the back window. It's now out of the world of social media and out where the rubber meets the road.
See something, say something.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.
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