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Victims say “Me Too” in solidarity

Assaulted women around the world unite against sexual violence

Jacob Morss, News Editor

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Amy Pham
Marching for Women’s Rights, two girls display their signs including one supporting the #MeToo Movement at the Women’s March in Wichita Jan. 20. The march in Wichita focused on encouraging women to vote.

“Me Too!” This phrase became a rallying cry for women everywhere who have the cruel fate of being a victim of sexual assault. The year 2017 was defined by sexual assault. Since accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein Oct. 5, the New York Times calculates that there have been 71 other men in powerful positions who have been fired or resigned due to sexual assault allegations, as of Feb. 8. With the recent influx of allegations and disciplinary action taking place, attention has been brought to the growing campaigns to counteract sexual assault, most notably the #MeToo Movement.

Although recently gaining a large amount of media attention, the #MeToo Movement is actually over a decade old. Tarana Burke started the movement in 2006 in order to gain “empowerment through empathy” for survivors of sexual assault, hence the name “me too.” The movement’s goal is to organize those who have been affected by sexual assault so others can have the courage to speak up without fear of criticism. Junior Anna Bolinger, who is the co-president of Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s Women’s Club, believes the mobilizing of victims is a major reason why there have been so many reported cases of sexual assault in the past year.

“It really starts with one person having the courage to step forward for other women to do so,” Bolinger said. “In the past we have seen women step forward and say they were sexually assaulted and were silenced by threats, so many women are just scared to say something. They have a mentality that if I’m quiet about the problem then it will just go away. That is not what we need to be telling victims.”

When it comes to organizing, social media has been one of #MeToo’s biggest tools. The movement became a hashtag, and just two weeks after the accusations against Weinstein, Twitter reported that over 1.7 million users used the hashtag in 85 countries.

The largest percentage of sexual assaults occur on college campuses, where 20 percent of female students will become victims of sexual assault or rape, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), of the female students who are assaulted, only 1 in 5 of them will report the crime to law enforcement.

When it comes to the largest reasons for not reporting, 26 percent of victims believed it was a personal issue, 20 percent feared reprisal, and 12 percent believed it was not important enough to report, according to RAINN. One victim, who wished to remain anonymous, believes #MeToo can be helpful for victims to be brave enough to come out with their stories.

“I think the #MeToo Movement is important and powerful,” the victim said. “I know many people that I love who have been affected by sexual violence, but the movement only works if women are brave enough to tell their stories. I have never really talked openly about this experience because I do not want to be portrayed as a victim, and I still deal with competing lies in my head telling me that it was not sexual assault and that it was my fault.”

RAINN also reports that there is a lack of disciplinary justice for all sexual assaults. Out of every 1,000 rapes only 6 will lead to incarceration and only 57 reports lead to arrest. Part of the reason the incarceration rate is so low is because only 310 cases out of 1,000 (2 out of 3) are actually reported to police. The lack of reporting and legal justice are the type of issues the #MeToo Movement was created to tackle. Junior Vanessa Nguyen, who is co-president of Women’s Club, believes Hollywood’s takeover of the movement may hurt the movement’s goals.

“Celebrities do have the power to bring awareness to it (sexual assault),” Nguyen said. “However, there can be a lot of hypocrisy in it when they still are working with known sexual assaulters in their industry.”

Hollywood has had their own exclusive movement called “Time’s Up.” It is less a movement and more of an action plan led by actresses in Hollywood to help combat sexual assault. The initiative creates a fund for middle and working-class women to help pay for legal fees involving sexual assault. Time’s Up also calls for equal pay for actresses and for those in Hollywood to wear black on the Red Carpet in recognition of sexual assault, according to the New York Times.

Time’s Up was created to deal with the claims of hypocrisy in Hollywood that overlooked the plight of working-class women when it came to sexual assault. The Annual Academy Awards (Oscars) were held March 4, and many members of Hollywood came out in support of the Time’s Up and #MeToo Movement. One of the highlights of the night was Frances McDormand’s Best Actress acceptance speech where she congratulated all female nominees and called on more usage of “inclusion riders,” which is when a prominent actor/actress can put a clause in their contract demanding the cast of a movie be more gender or racially inclusive, according to Vox. Some of the low points of the night for the #MeToo Movement came when Kobe Bryant and Gary Oldman won Oscars. Bryant was charged for raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in 2003, and Oldman was accused by his ex-wife of choking and beating her with a telephone in 2001, according to Vox.

The sponsor of Women’s Club Brian Meade does not believe the #MeToo Movement will go far enough in guaranteeing legitimate change for women.

“If feminist goals were extremely modest I would say yes it (#MeToo) can lead to change, but if you are talking macro change I would say no,” Meade said. “We need a cultural change. Why have we been focusing on the females when they are the ones being assaulted? We need to focus on the people doing the assault. We need to teach our men from a young age to respect women, and stop immediately asking what the women did to entice her perpetrator.”

Despite not leading to much legitimate change yet, #MeToo took center stage on International Women’s Day March 8. Protests and strikes were organized all around the world in countries including South Korea, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Kenya, England, the United States, etc. Most notable of these strikes was in Spain who held the first nationwide feminist strike in history, according to Democracy Now. Women all over Spain stayed home from work to show how necessary women are in society chanting “If we stop, the world stops.”

“Today we call for a society free of sexist oppression, exploitation and violence,” said organizers of the strike in a manifesto they published. “We call for rebellion and a struggle against the alliance of the patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be obedient, submissive and quiet. We do not accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work. That is why we are calling a work strike.”

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Victims say “Me Too” in solidarity