Leane Ramsoomar, Research Uptake Manager, What Works
The #metoo campaign, developed by Tarana Burke a decade ago, recently turned into a hashtag which went viral this week, with survivors of sexual assault, violence and harassment sharing their experiences on social media across the globe.
The campaign has seen women across the world virtually joining hands in a collective display of support, empathy and bravery in the face of what is, a devastating reality for too many. Some have used the campaign as an opportunity to draw attention to the scourge of sexual violence experienced by women and girls across the globe; others have used it as outlet to disclose their experiences of sexual assault, violence or harassment during a time when they feel less lonely in the journey. Still others, use the campaign to help remove the stigma that surrounds disclosing one’s status as a sexual assault /violence survivor. While recognizing that some men have been victims of sexual violence, the campaign has justifiably focused on women, who overwhelmingly experience disproportionate levels of sexual violence and harassment; and whose experiences are fundamentally different from those of men.
The #metoo is not just about sexual assault and violence- it is about the daily harassment of virtually every woman who has to endure catcalls, whistling, unsolicited attention to their bodies and their dressing in their offices, neighborhoods, streets and public spaces.
Men have not been silent in the campaign. Many have come forth to assume responsibility either for perpetrating sexual assault, violence or harassment or being complicit in its occurrence. Others have used the campaign to reflect on how their socialization has impacted on the toxic masculinities that result in, and sustain violence against women and girls.
The campaign has also stimulated discussion and opinion from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community about the extent to which the campaign extends across the gender spectrum. Some feel that the very conception of the #metoo campaign has polarized the heterosexual and LGBTI communities. Others are of the opinion that the campaign has been inclusive across the gender spectrum. The debate continues.
One thing is clear, the #metoo campaign has sparked conversation and drawn attention to the lived experiences of women (and men). There is indeed solidarity in the campaign. Yet there remain many women and men who have chosen not to participate, despite being survivors of sexual assault violence and harassment. This is understandable. With its well-intentioned aim of “stomping out the stigma”, shaming perpetrators, raising global awareness, the decision to publically declare surviving sexual assault, violence and harassment remains a huge emotional burden for many. This must be acknowledged and validated.
To survivors who have chosen not to participate in the campaign, we understand, we respect you, we support you. You are valued. We recognize that raising awareness about the magnitude of the problem does not on its own address it, nor does it even begin to capture your pain. Like many who have joined hands to support those who have chosen to participate, we join hands with you. We remain committed to addressing the drivers of interpersonal physical and sexual violence and ending violence against you.