If you logged onto Facebook or Twitter this month you probably saw the hashtag #MeToo. For survivors of sexual assault and harassment, it’s been both a rallying cry to change the way we currently deal with the treatment of survivors as well as a painful reminder of what yourself and others have been through. After over 50 different accounts of sexual assault were brought against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein from actresses such as Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, the hashtag spread across social media. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a note that read “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I think it’s important to note that we should not force abuse survivors to come forward with their personal stories of assault in order to take the problem seriously. Clearly, there is a problem. As a fellow survivor of sexual assault it was hard to see my timeline flooded with friends coming forward, but it also was comforting to know I was not alone. It can feel isolating at times but sadly, 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and of that 80 per cent of assailants are friends and family of the victim. Chances are, you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, worse still, you probably know an abuser too. In my case it was a trusted friend and if you asked him about it now I’m not sure he would even know he did something wrong. There is only one option and it is strong, enthusiastic consent. If your friends have come forward reach out to them, ask if they’re okay, take them out of coffee if they’d like and don’t ask them to share more of their story than they’re comfortable with. In fact, don’t expect anything from them at all. Just believe them. If you’re at a party or a bar keep an eye on your friends. If you’re friend comes forward about someone that you know. Believe them too. Moving forward it shouldn’t be on the backs of survivors and victims to come forward, it should be on assailants and enablers to change their behavior. If you’ve come forward I believe you.
XOXO -Publishing Editor