You probably saw #MeToo on social media in the last week. The hashtag surfaced in light of the recent sexual harassment allegations by a slew of actresses and models, against Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Many women have come forward detailing their harassment encounters with Weinstein, but the public reception of these allegations have been harsh, to no surprise. Unsolicited, typical questions such as “Why didn’t they come forward sooner?”, spew from every end in an attempt to discredit victims. In turn, women have taken to social media to simply post ‘Me too’ or hashtag #MeToo, to stand in solidarity with other sexual assault victims while also telling their own experiences.
The two words, me too, simply say, “I have gone through this too. This is my story, too,” without having to say anything more. The Weinstein scandal has unearthed the sad, ugly, and, unfortunately, common way women are treated when they come forward to talk about sexual assault. Women choose to remain silent for so long because their entire credibility is questioned time and time again when they finally do come forward.
There seems to be an idea that the longer you wait, the less valid your assault is. That if you ‘waited for so long’, it must not have been a big deal. First of all, there is no such thing as ‘too late’. Sexual assault is a very difficult and traumatic experience that millions of women go through every day. Coming to terms with the assault by yourself is hard enough—telling others can be even harder. Having to give explicit details to everyone you tell is like being assaulted all over again. So when victims do finally disclose, there is no such thing as ‘waiting too long’. Just listen.
The saddest part about seeing the way women are ridiculed and degraded when they come forward is that it encourages more victims to stay silent. It feeds into the pattern of victim blaming. It appears that the longer you wait, the less likely you are to be believed. However, the earlier you disclose doesn’t appear to be the right time either. Victims are already forced into a corner when they decide to come forward. If the assault even makes it to the early stages of legal action, the process alone can be even more traumatizing than the assault itself.
Seeing hashtag #MeToo on social media in the last few days has opened my eyes to the very obvious, yet heartbreaking conclusion—there are more victims than you think. Even more heartbreaking is the reality that many victims will never come forward because they are afraid of not being believed, or somehow, having to bear the blame. But the point of this hashtag isn’t to accuse anyone, or to ostracize men – it’s simply saying that sexual assault happened to them. It doesn’t matter where it happened, when it happened, or how it happened. All that matters is that it happened. #MeToo