The lack of school and parental involvement is why another person may post #MeToo

By Aliya Rembelinsky ’21

A young girl is part of a youth camp during the year 1996. One day, during a time of all-girl bonding, the girl asks to speak with Tarana Burke, the youth camp director, in private. This young girl, still developing, tells a story of how her ‘step-daddy’ was doing things to her body too horrible to tell. After five minutes, Burke grew too emotional hearing this young girl’s story and directed her to a counselor who she could speak to instead.

The feeling of rejection showed on the young girl’s face, and she walked away. Burke said, “I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone, and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too.” Then the seeds of the #MeToo were planted and would bristle on the edge for nearly a decade.

Although that is when the #MeToo movement truly began, it wasn’t until a famous actress and one of the few to initially accuse Harvey Weinstein, Alyssa Milano, tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Not long after the tweet exploded with many notable people and regular people confessing what happened to them with two simple words. Since that tweet was tweeted, 825,000 people on Twitter used the hashtag either on its own or attached their story to it. On Facebook, in under twenty-four hours, 4.7 million people took part of the conversation under 12 million posts. But it wasn’t just in America. In France, they started their own hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, which in English translates to “Rat out your pig.” This movement led to these ‘silence breakers’ to become Time’s Person of the Year.

But #MeToo isn’t just something that is affecting the entertainment industry and the political climate. It is changing how people approach the issue of sexual assault. But with just as many people confessing their story and facing the issue, there is an equal amount staying silent on the matter or aren’t even aware that this movement is happening. No where else is this more prevalent than in the schools that children attend every day. Many children, and people in general, have darker senses of humor and say something that may be shocking or offensive to get a good laugh. Any one hurt by these jokes is most likely being overly sensitive according to most of these people. However, you lessen the trauma that someone might have experienced. Why are they so upset and scared? Why do they feel so violated when everyone else around them is laughing about someone shouting, “I’m being raped” as they playfully fight someone else.

Teachers are no better than the students. They allow these words to fly without any repercussions. All they do is sigh before they continue their lesson for the most part. Rainn, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, found that females age sixteen to nineteen are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. The same organization found that one in fifty-three boys under the age 18 experience sexual assault at the hands of an adult.

Teachers need to pay more attention to their students and listen closer to the words that their students use. How can students be expected to be productive members of society when no teacher is willing to teach empathy? How are students supposed to understand the world when no teacher is willing to discuss the political climate and recent events with their students, and they can learn life lessons from those things instead of filling their brains with information they may not ever use. Students need to be properly educated about sexual assault and taught the importance of not intentionally ruining the life of someone else. Rainn found that victims of sexual assault are four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse, four times more likely to experience PTSD, and three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode. All of these things because one person did not understand empathy and was not raised in an environment where he or she could understand the repercussions of sexual assault.

Despite all of that, many still see this as someone being overly sensitive when their boss calls them honey or someone catcalls them on the street. It perpetuates a constant state of female/male victimhood. This is not the case. They experienced something that made them feel uncomfortable in their own skin. They received a comment that was derogatory and made them feel uncomfortable. That is not okay. People should not have to be paranoid about who says what while they just want do something in public. The #MeToo movement is opening a conversation that people have long swept under the rug and tried to ignore. This movement needs to bring about a change in the world where we can be more open to victims of such atrocities.

Perhaps someone out there has not yet shared his or her story due to fear, that someone will blame them for what happened, that no one will believe them if they come out and say something about it. But it isn’t their fault and having your voice added to the collective whole will inspire other who were wronged the power to make changes bigger than now. Be honest. Share your story, and maybe you’ll be the reason why someone else has the courage to say something as well.