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#Metoo and Us

By Christopher Cardenas

The #MeToo movement is one of the most impactful movements in recent history, helping to expose culprits of sexual harassment and providing survivors with support and a platform. With all the recent buzz, it is very surprising to discover that the movement started all the way back in 2006.

It began as a movement to help survivors of sexual violence, extending support to African-American women and girls, and helping to create and demonstrate community action to end sexual violence.

Tarana Burke created an organization called Just Be Inc. Just Be Inc. was designed for young women to develop self-worth, which would eventually lead to more positive self-esteem. While helping these young girls, the organization kept discovering that many of the women had been sexually assaulted and felt as though they had to be quiet. Soon enough, Just Be Inc. put up their Myspace page and it went “viral” (at a time where there was no Twitter). The organization received numerous compliments and volunteers ready to help.

Through the years, this movement grew and grew, eventually reaching actress Alyssa Milano, who tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘Me Too’ as a reply to this tweet.” This tweet soon went viral as many survivors of sexual harassment (not just women), both famous and ordinary, told their story with the hashtag #MeToo.

The goal of the #MeToo movement is to encourage survivors to speak out and support other survivors. It creates a platform for community action and healing. Everyone heals differently, but allowing people to heal and find support in different ways is a main component. These ways could include legislation or laws designed for women to have the power to gain justice. Rape kits, effective sexual harassment policies in workplaces, and the #MeToo bill are all vehicles for survivors of sexual harassment to have increased protection and a way to heal.

Although these new methods are important for survivors, arguably the best way the movement has helped survivors everywhere is by creating a platform for survivors and their stories to become public. For survivors, seeing other stories can allow them to gain the confidence to speak out as well.

The movement has also sparked a resistance in Hollywood. Actresses everywhere were starting to speak out and let their stories be heard for the first time, encouraging justice to be served. Many of the powerful men who committed these horrible atrocities were finally being charged.

Now that the movement has spread widely, it is beneficial if the next generation is aware of the movement and is able to make sure not only that all survivors feel safe, but that incidents can be prevented. We asked two White Plains High School students how they felt about the #MeToo movement, as well as their criticisms.

Interview with Raquel and Max, Grade 10

Chris: How did you find out about the #MeToo movement?

Raquel: Family and friends were talking about it

Max: I heard about it through media and news outlets discussing how women are speaking out against sexual harassment and assault, as well as rape.

Chris: What do you know about the movement already?

Raquel: Different survivors are coming out with their stories of sexual harassment, and a lot of their stories are from a very long time ago because they didn’t feel comfortable until the movement came out.

Max: The movement was founded in 2006. A woman named Tarana Burke started using the term “Me Too” and it was later popularized. Now, their aim is to focus on and help all survivors and victims, for perpetrators to be held accountable for their actions, and for society to change to prevent these crimes.

Chris: Do you think the movement is doing a good job in bringing awareness to sexual violence, and, if yes, why?

Raquel: They spread it a lot in social media, making a hashtag making a trend. They have different press to spread awareness

Max: “#MeToo” is brilliantly empowering women and all people to speak out against those who have wronged them. They should not be afraid to accuse, and they should be speaking out. Society has been impacted by it.

Chris: Give us your honest opinion on #MeToo and its impact.

Raquel: #MeToo is good and helpful movement. It is a big achievement because once you start hearing all the stories you realize oftentimes that society would’ve never known the story if it wasn’t for the movement.

Chris: Is it wrong for people to come out with stories from such a long time ago?

Raquel: No, it’s just crazy because many of these survivors were so scared and didn’t say anything for a long time...It’s just terrible if people don’t believe survivors because it doesn’t mean that they made it up simply because it was long a time ago. It just means they were scared until the #MeToo movement came. Survivors are being empowered from the movement. They didn’t think they could tell their stories until the movement started and they heard from other people and were inspired.

Chris: Recently, criticisms of the movement have emerged, stating that men (or others) could be falsely accused of sexual crimes, and women could lose job opportunities because men might be afraid to work with them. Do you agree with these criticisms?

Raquel: It is a valid criticism. Obviously there has to be an investigation, it can’t just be, “she said that and it’s true.” But if the story is true, the accuser must be going through something and must have been scared...There also has to be some guidelines, people should have boundaries, so they cannot exaggerate actions. Rape is sexual harassment, but sexual harassment isn’t always rape. It just depends on the case. The punishment always depends on the case. Every situation is different, and the judges should be doing a good job if legal action is taken...Men in the workplace shouldn’t be able to decide that they can’t work with women because they can’t control themselves.

Max: #MeToo is not perfect. Nothing is. The false [accusations] of sexual crimes or crimes in general is a problem. The California Innocence Program is helping to fix this, and they have helped to free 28 innocent people. They were able to help Brian Banks after he spent five years in prison and five years as a sex offender. However, he still faced the consequences of losing his football career and scholarship. A wrong allegation can ruin anyone’s career. And there is no real crime for it. The most the false accuser can get is “Obstruction of Justice” which is a charge that can range from a fine to 10 years in prison. Sexual crimes should be judged differently based on the degree of how bad they are. There is a difference between rape and sexual misconduct. I think the fact that women could lose job opportunities is wrong. Men, if they’re smart, should have no problem working with anyone qualified, regardless of their sex. Someone has to create guidelines. We all should sit down and have a civil discussion to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. I understand where men are coming from, but I am not agreeing with them because men do not know what they can or cannot do. People are going off what they think and feel now.

Chris: Critics of the movement also question why survivors are waiting so long to tell their stories.

Raquel: You can’t just say, “Why did you wait so long to tell?” because you probably don’t know how survivors feel. It’s not like they just couldn’t get around to it, it’s because their experiences were traumatic.

Max: I think that these survivors have been empowered by the movement. They finally feel able to come out with these stories. I think in much rarer cases, it could be used to hurt someone’s reputation. The tough thing about those cases is that it is one’s word against another’s. The hard thing about these situations are that they will always leave people unsatisfied.

Both sides of these students’ views are justified. Although their opinions may differ, the #MeToo movement is a powerful movement and a way for people to feel supported. People should feel safe in workplaces, and as both students agreed, guidelines should be set for what sexual harassment is and is not.

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