#MeToo: Solidarity through social media

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Hannah Michelle Bussa
CONTRIBUTOR

Three years after going viral, #MeToo still empowers a movement of survivors. Photo courtesy of Rachel Busse.

Content warning: #MeToo

On Oct. 15, 2017, #MeToo went viral, reaching 85 countries in just 24 hours. In the three years since, the power of the #MeToo Movement has only grown.

Tarana Burke started the #MeToo Movement in 2006, after not being able to help a young girl because of her own experience.

“I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured,” Burke said. “I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper… ‘me too.’”

“For a long time, most women defined their own sexual harassment and assault in this way: as something unspoken, something private, something to be ashamed of acknowledging,” Sophie Gilbert wrote in The Atlantic.

The #MeToo Movement changed that.

“The power of #MeToo… is that it takes something that women had long kept quiet about and transformed it into a movement,” Gilbert said.

The website makes the message of the Movement clear.

“‘Me Too’ isn’t a trend; it’s a movement to address sexual violence as a public health crisis, a human rights issue, and a pervasive form of systemic violence.”

A local teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, explained how #MeToo helped her.

“Due to my job, I didn’t feel like I could share my story. But in reading so many stories, I felt validated, seen, and loved,” she said.

The strength of the movement helped her to speak up when she had to report a colleague for inappropriate behavior.

“I drew on the bravery of those before me and told several people above me… I continued to back my students,” she said.

Though reporting ultimately led her to resign from her position, she doesn’t regret it.

“Those girls didn’t deserve to be leered and pawed at, and I’m proud that I played a part to protect them,” she said. “These were girls, some as young as 14, that could now say #MeToo… A grooming predator was pushed out of a school. That was worth it.”

#MeToo has made positive changes, including shifting how Americans view power. It has also started to bring women together in their shared experiences. Three local women of color spoke out about these changes in the culture.

UNO student Valeria mentioned the idea that there are lots of false reports, despite studies showing this to be abnormal.

“Girls started being denied their stories,” she said. “However, the amount of women that experience assault, harassment – anything – is like every woman.”

Rachel, an Omaha local, agreed.

“I know that every single woman on this earth has experienced some form of harassment from men. I know for a fact, because that’s the society we live in,” Rachel said. “And we have trained ourselves to say, ‘that’s okay.’ But it’s not okay!”

Another Omaha local, Tiffany also spoke on how much she has learned since the #MeToo movement started.

“I think [at the time #MeToo went viral], I didn’t really know about how many other people were affected by it,” Tiffany said. “I had no idea. I thought it was just a few ‘bad eggs’ that came along my way. But it sounded like every ‘body’ was experiencing this – female bodies at least.”

Rachel added: “When the #MeToo Movement [started] I was like, yes! Finally! This is a movement I can hop on, like all the way on. I was seeing so many brave women, and men, that were rising up, and speaking their truth. And it was really empowering.”

The #MeToo Movement gained broader visibility again during the Kavanaugh hearings.

“[Watching that testimony] made me think yeah – yeah, this happens to a lot of people,” Tiffany said. “Which is the whole point of #MeToo.”

Rachel shared her own experience as a survivor.

“I feel like as victims – I don’t like that word – as survivors, we blame ourselves, and we somehow think at the end of the day it’s our fault,” she said. “What could I have done to prevent that? Should I have worn something different? We end up blaming ourselves, and that’s part of the toxicity of the society that we live in… but this [movement] is about empowering women.

“I really appreciated people posting about #MeToo,” Tiffany added. “It took a lot of courage for everybody to do that, so we can have this conversation. It made an impact on the way that people have conversations about this topic, seeing everyone else talk about it online. It certainly helped me.”

Though there is work yet to be done, “uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutionary in its own right” as Gilbert wrote.

Buke discussed the work to be done in an election year with both candidates having credible accusations of sexual misconduct.

“Getting the current administration out of office does not mean the incoming administration is some saving grace,” Buke said. “It doesn’t mean our work is done or our fight is over. It means we are trying to find an opponent that will at least come to the table.”

To continue this work, Burke helped create a new online platform called Me Too Act Too.

“Everybody will not be able to say ‘Me Too’ because that is very specific to people who have experienced this violence, but everybody can act – we can all act too,” she said. “We can all play a part. And that’s what this is about.”

Need help? Visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or RAINN’s Sexual Assault Hotline. UNO students can also visit this link to find campus resources.

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