Recently, a male friend of mine told me that men are now afraid to speak to women as a result of the #MeToo movement. I looked at him funny and asked, “Really?” He nodded vigorously and said, “Oh yeah, you never know when a woman is going to accuse you of something when all you were trying to do is tell them they look nice today.” Shocked and sad, I cocked and eyebrow, nodded, and walked away.
Before I delve into my personal thoughts on this, let’s take a look at the facts. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, over 63% of sexual assaults are never reported. They also found that only 2% of reports turn out to be false (the same percent as any other crime).
One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, reports the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 8 out of 10 rape cases the victim knows the perpetrator.
Sexual assault is more than rape – it’s unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, incest, and sexual abuse.
Sexual assault is not:
- A man telling a woman she looks nice
- A man holding open a door for a woman
- A man hitting on a girl at a bar
- A man messaging a girl via social media
As a woman who has many close male friends, it saddens me that some people seem to believe women are on a witch-hunt, searching for the next man in power they can bring down with false accusations and made-up sob stories. It also hurts my heart to know that there are women who live their lives in fear of every man they come into contact with, fully believing that all men are dangerous. Let me just say this, the large majority of sexual assault perpetrators are men, but the large majority of men are not sexual assault perpetrators.
With that being said, I think it’s supremely important that we focus less on a hash tag and more on the true issue at hand. Millions of people worldwide are sexually assaulted every single day. And if you’re lucky enough not to be included among this list, it’s likely you don’t fully understand the paralyzing fear that speaking out can cause.
When you’re violated sexually, the pain reverberates through every last nook and cranny of your body. It pierces your mind, slices your heart, and sucks your soul right out. Speaking up about your experience, and out against your perpetrator, makes the event glaringly real and the pain remarkably raw. The courage it takes to re-live the event through words, either spoken or written, goes beyond the bravery most of us will embrace in our lifetimes.
Most women fearless enough to do so have no hidden agendas. They’re not looking for fame, money, or the joy of watching someone else’s life be torn apart. What they’re searching for is peace. What they want is to be heard. They’re looking to give a voice to those too broken down to step forward themselves.
And maybe you’re tired of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Maybe you think it’s gone “a little too far.” Your feelings are valid and you’re allowed to feel however you do about this situation – and any situation for that matter. However, you have options. You can log off, you can shut down, you can choose not to read the articles. Survivors weren’t given an option.
Don’t try to silence the bravest women (and men) of the bunch. They’ve been quiet long enough. And maybe, just maybe this sickening tsunami of sexual assault stories will destroy the social constructs that keep survivors silent, and create a new environment that encourages respect and provides support.
So men, please don’t fear for your livelihoods, your jobs, your reputations. If you act within the boundaries of a civilized respectable human being the odds of you being accused as a rapist are the same as you being accused as an armed burglar. And I’ll go ahead and assume you don’t leave the house afraid of that every day.
And survivors, please don’t stop coming forward. We need you. We need you to show us that standing up and speaking out is the only way to heal. We need you to help us find new ways to talk about these issues. We need you to show us where we’ve failed you so we can avoid doing so again. We need you to do what most of us can’t.
It’s all too easy to focus on the news stories, celebrities, and drama and lose sight of the real problems at hand. Next time you find yourself sick of seeing #MeToo, try to remind yourself that we’re not talking about hash tags – we’re talking about humans.