You see "Me too" on your social media accounts and you think, "Stop making yourself a victim." You think, "Stop living in the past." You think, "You're exaggerating the problem, exaggerating the pain." And if you don't understand, you may think those are fair things to say. Honestly, that means you are lucky because that means that you've never felt the need to cover every inch of your body for fear of what will be said about skin showing. You've never walked down the street in fear you'll run into that one person you know always makes you feel uncomfortable because while you've stated you’re not interested they continue to make sexual advances. If you're against the "Me too" trend, as some are calling it, you've never sat in a room so self-conscious of your body you have no idea what anyone else is saying.
Yes, some of it is internal, an interpretation of how others around you are behaving. But if the interpretation makes you uncomfortable, it's important to say something about it. Identify what is making you uncomfortable. Do they keep staring at your chest or ass? Are they consistently making sexual innuendos and looking at you? Are they sitting or standing just a little too close ALL the time?
How would you feel if your child came home afraid to go back to school because the teachers and peers were looking down her shirt all the time? How would you feel if your child called from college unsure what to do because their professor suggested during office hours that the best way to raise their grade would be an additional "favor" and now they feel like they have to drop the class that's required for their degree? These are things that happen. Daily.
This is not a small issue. Let's give some statistics*:
Every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted.
1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted.
1 in 33 men have been sexually assaulted.
Survivors of sexual assault are 10 times more likely to use heavy drugs.
94% of women report symptoms of PTSD within two weeks of the assault and 30% carry those symptoms past nine months.
33% of survivors attempt suicide.
38% of survivors experience work or school problems.
37% of survivors experience family/friend problems.
84% of survivors experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate or severe distress.
Survivors also are at greater risk for STDs and other illnesses.
This is not just saying, "I have been assaulted/harassed." This is us speaking out saying, "No more people should be assaulted and harassed, this is an issue that needs a solution." A solution does not need to place blame, it does not need to place labels like victim and perpetrator. As someone who has been raped and in abusive relationships, I can tell you that I still carry blame in myself, as well as the men who did those things to me. That does not make me a victim to stand up and say that I have been sexually abused/assaulted/harassed. It shows I'm one of the thousands of women that experience this every day. It makes me a survivor.
Many people do not share their stories. This is largely due to the fact that many women have been taught that it is normal and to just adjust ourselves accordingly. We have to wear clothes that ensure we're not showing too much skin because if we are, we're "asking for it." So, when girls come home and tell their parents what happened, they get told that they need to be more careful, watch what they’re doing, wear different clothes, but nothing is done to fix the problem. Instead, the problem is buried by accepting that it's just going to happen. We don't speak up because we've been repeatedly told that it won't matter, that nothing can be done and nothing will be done, that we just have to make sure we're doing everything we can to not be harassed or assaulted. But how is it our fault?
Behind every “me too” there is a person who thought they wouldn’t be believed, they would be punished, hurt, or killed for acknowledging her pain. Behind every “me too” there is a woman hesitating to post because her story is “nothing” compared to the horrors some others experience. Behind every “me too” there is a woman with a knot in her stomach, fighting nightmares and flashbacks regularly finding the courage to stand up and say that they have fought this.
For every “me too” there are people who died carrying the weight of their experience, or who died because the weight was too heavy. For every “me too” there is a person afraid that they can speak up. For every “me too” there is someone feeling alone in their battle.
Man, woman, boy, girl, this is a problem for everyone. While it affects people differently, it is still a growing problem that we are allowing to continue. By being forced to change wardrobe, personality, or just be less so we don't attract an assault. Instead of looking at the way to stop this behavior, to begin with. No man or woman should be afraid to wear something because they don't want to be hit on, harassed, or assaulted.
What can we do, as a society, as a generation, as humans, to change this? Our greatest avenue is to speak up, tell our stories, share the true magnitude of the problem. Because so many women are successful and thriving despite the things that have happened in their lives and despite their battles. Speaking out and saying "Me, too" takes strength and courage because it's not easy to talk about. As a society, we've come to the point where we just ignore painful things, but ignoring it perpetuates the problem. Things will never get better if we just ignore it and focus on the positive.
If you're saying "Me too," don't let it hold you back. Of course, you should live your life and if you're struggling to do that, get help, reach out, learn to thrive again because you can. The first step to a solution is admitting there is a problem. This movement is more than a trend or a status posted, it's the first step in change, the first step for future generations to live in less hate.
*Statistics obtained from this link.