The hashtag has taken over the site in the last week, and Aisling O'Connor looks at what this means.
The hashtag “#metoo” has blown up over Twitter over the last few days. The trend was started by actress Alyssa Milano who tweeted on Sunday “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet”. Attached was text explaining how the idea was suggested by a friend believing that it might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
This comes days after Ronan Farrow of the New York Times broke the story of the allegations of abuse from Harvey Weinstein. Since the story broke over 20 actresses, models, and women who have worked with Weinstein have come out with their harrowing experiences. The bigger names with sexual assault claims against the Miramax founder include Cara Delevigne, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyeneth Paltrow.
The #metoo movement shows that while sexual assault, and even paedophilia, are rampant in Hollywood, it occurs outside of the red carpet too.
Thousands of tweeters world-wide shared their stories and support. The magnitude of the problem was strongly felt with many Twitter users expressing shock at the volume of stories. Common sentiment included people saying that they no longer knew single women who weren't sexually assaulted or harassed in some way. Men too shared their stories; emphasis has been placed on the fact that sexual assault knows no gender, ethnicity, or any other defining factor of individuals.
Evan Rachel Wood tweeted that “because I was shamed and considered a ‘party girl’ I felt I deserved it. I shouldn’t have been there, I shouldn’t have been ‘bad’ #metoo”. Author Najwa Zebian said that “I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it”, in regards to her experiences.
Lady Gaga showed solidarity by simply tweeting the hashtag. The “Till it Happens to You” singer has often spoken up about sexual violence. She co-wrote the song with Diane Warren in 2015 for a documentary on sexual assault on college campuses called “The Hunting Ground”.
Rape Crisis Ireland’s statistics show that one in five adult women, and one in ten adult men have experienced sexual violence, with only 32% of survivors reporting sexual violence to the Gardaí. Reasons for choosing not to report the crime are cited as not being believed, not wanting to hurt their family – as a large portion of offenders are family members, or people the victim knows – and fear of the perpetrator.
It is very rare that someone falsely accuses another of sexual assault. The notable Jemma Beale case should not discredit the reliability of victims. Miss Beale was convicted of perjury and preventing the course of justice in August of 2017 for claiming to have been raped 15 times. The CPS in the UK’s report from 2013 found that out of 5,651 prosecutions for rape, only 35 were false allegations, as reported by The Guardian.
The vast majority of cases brought forward are legitimate, and it’s important to bear in mind that most don’t even get reported.
Furthermore, just because the plaintiff lost their case does not mean that the rape or sexual assault did not happen. It means that there was not sufficient evidence or that they jury could did not believe that there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. This is a devastating reality which leaves countless victims to live in a society where their attacker walks free.
As a society, the issue of choosing not to believe victims is widespread. Worse still, people somehow find a way to suggest the victim must have been somewhat at fault. Dress, sobriety, and whether they were alone are often cited as reasons to suggest victims deserved what happened. Rape Crisis explains that sexual predators do not attack due to dress or the perceived attractiveness of the victim. Sexual assault is about power. Victim blaming and choosing not to believe victims when they come forward is a large part of the issue. In blaming the victim, people are effectively defending a sexual predator.
With more and more victims taking a stand against their abusers, perhaps a message will be sent to those who have, or considered, sexually harassing someone that they will not get away with it.
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