No one should have to endure sexual harassment, or tolerate its prevalence. No one should have to live in a world that is deaf and blind to how pervasive it is. The #MeToo social media movement breaks the silence. The hashtag is a rallying cry for anyone harassed or assaulted to help demonstrate how enormous the problem is. Yet the viral reach of #MeToo is problematic for some survivors. If #MeToo has made you feel troubled, sad, upset or angry, you’re not alone. And today I’d like to talk about it.
It started as a way to help young women of color who were sexually exploited. “Activist Tarana Burke initially launched ‘Me Too’ 10 years ago as a grassroots movement to provide ’empowerment through empathy’ to survivors of sexual abuse, assault, exploitation, and harassment in underprivileged communities who typically don’t have access to rape crisis centers or counselors,” reports Molly Rubin in the online journal, Quartz
In mid-October, actress Alyssa Milano linked the hashtag to the allegations of sexual assault by film executive Harvey Weinstein. Twitter stated the hashtag appears in over 2 million tweets across 85 countries since October 15, reported CNN.
This is staggering—but for many of my clients and for sexual assault and trauma survivors everywhere—this is also triggering. So while many people are speaking up, sharing their stories and finding comfort and empowerment in the campaign, many also refrain from sharing—for a variety of reasons (as discussed in this Washington Post article).
Here’s my take:
You don’t HAVE TO tell the world in order to heal
If you have survived sexual harassment, assault or violence, I want to give you permission not to join the #MeToo campaign. While it might empower some, or even most…it can trigger emotional pain for others. Not everyone has to share his or her experience publicly. But I do encourage you to tell someone, because telling someone is an important first step on the road to healing.
You WILL be believed
I’m asking you to tell someone you can trust. If you have tried to tell someone before and they didn’t believe you, I’m encouraging you to try again. There are people who will believe you. Find someone who demonstrates empathy. Someone who writes or talks about healing from sexual assault like I’m doing now. This person can be a therapist. This person might also be a good friend or a clergy person. You absolutely do not need to share your trauma on social media. But do share it with someone who will listen. (As a trauma informed therapist, I don’t have to hear all the details – just that you experienced this trauma, I will listen. I will hear you. I will support you.)
It’s NOT your fault
I know dealing with the experience of assault and harassment feels terrible! It’s incredibly hard to face. I know you may struggle with feelings of guilt or shame. It is NOT your fault. You did not do anything wrong. In all situations of sexual assault, harassment and abuse of power, the responsibility falls on the perpetrator. This truth is worth repeating: You did not do anything wrong.
Healing is possible
Telling someone who will believe you is part of healing. It’s one of the first steps in being able to process what happened to you. Healing also comes from receiving support from those you love, from knowing you haven’t done anything wrong, and from knowing that appropriate action was taken (whatever that action may be).
In support of #MeToo
You absolutely do not have to jump on board the #MeToo movement. But ultimately I believe this movement is a good thing. It is building awareness. And I believe it’s a building block in fighting the stigma around mental health issues, so that people can get the help they deserve.
I urge everyone to remember the original purpose of this movement—empowerment through empathy.
That’s what it all comes down to.
We can empower healing in others—and in ourselves—through empathy.
About sexual assault:
- Sexual Assault: What It Looks Like, How to Prevent It and Help Survivors Recover
- What to Do About Intimate Partner Violence: Let’s Talk About It
- The Role of the Authentic Self in Trauma-Informed Care
About the Me Too movement:
- Video: Founder of “Me Too” movement speaks out
- Article: An activist, a little girl and the heartbreaking origin of ‘Me too’