A couple of years ago, you may have seen a certain hashtag trending on social media.
I had spotted the phrase being used by all sorts of people; friends, colleagues, celebrities and strangers. Did you know what it was all about? If not, I’m about to reveal all.
The movement originated from women who were standing up against film producer, Harvey Weinstein. They had accused him of sexually harassing, assaulting or raping them. Sexual abuse is appalling and it is important to be spoken about. However, it can take much bravery to come forward to the necessary authorities to reveal what has happened. Victims often worry they may not be believed; that they’ve made it up as some kind of personal vendetta against the accused for a particular wrongdoing. Add the celebrity factor into the equation and people seem even more reluctant to step forward. When the perpetrator is in any way a well-known personality, they fear what backlash they could potentially have to deal with. As a result, many do not come forward, instead of living with the silent horror alone.
As the Weinstein case received further media attention, then more and more of the population came to the understanding that it was OK – in fact perfectly acceptable – to open up about sexual harassment and all that this broad heading encompasses.
#MeToo was first used by actress Alyssa Milano in 2017 who was one of the women affected by the Weinstein situation in an idea to bring people together who had experienced similar harassment. It was a way to ensure these women didn’t feel alone but instead felt united in their anguish.
The hashtag went viral and within 24 hours of the initial post, #MeToo had been used by more than 4.7 million people. What’s more, in the US, it was estimated that 45% of Facebook users had a direct friend who had posted the hashtag. A shocking statistic but, at the same time, a remarkable moment of unity and honesty.
As the days, weeks and months went on, #MeToo was used many more times, reaching over 85 countries, this itself proving that sexual abuse is sadly prevalent in all corners of the earth.
It was time to stand up to the offenders and speak out for the sake of all the victims.
Despite dozens of women coming forward about Weinstein and a series of police investigations, he still denies all sexual abuse allegations. Various court cases have been postponed and the latest has been delayed until January 2020.
However, whatever the outcome for Weinstein (and we hope for the right outcome), you cannot underestimate the effect that #MeToo has had. It has spanned the world – both large communities and small. It has proved that victims can stand up and be heard.
I witnessed so many people speaking up (or ‘typing up’). The simple but effective hashtag was easy to tap out but those six carefully-typed characters were undeniably impactful. Victims were not forced to elaborate further. They could just leave it at that. No questions asked. People would just know. They’d be aware. And they could extend their empathy. Some may have felt empowered to take things further.
Yet although so many have spoken up, I am well aware that many others haven’t and are still living with terrible secrets and memories.
No consent means it is not acceptable.
Rape is not OK. Inappropriate touching is not OK. Sexually abusive comments are not OK. Discrimination is not OK.
We should continue to speak out and seek justice.