The revolutionary MeToo Movement exploded onto the scene when the hashtag, #MeToo, went viral in 2017.

Even though positive changes continue to happen since the MeToo Movement, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. And while concerns for increased domestic abuse during lockdowns were discussed in the mainstream media, sexual abuse was left out of the conversation. 1

According to Dr. Clare Gunby of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, “sexual violence thrives in a context of impunity and so, we should not be surprised if the number of women affected during the UK lockdown is vast. Specialist services will need to be resourced to execute strategies that can draw these groups of survivors into support.” 2

During the first four months of lockdown, the charity Changing Lives showed a 62% increase in the number of women revealing they had experienced sexual violence. 3

It’s important we continue moving forward, having conversations about the MeToo Movement, and making strides against sexual violence.

Who started the MeToo movement and why?

Though the Movement didn’t come to the forefront until 2017, MeToo has actually been around for over a decade. The Movement was founded in 2006 by a survivor and activist, Tarana Burke.

During the early days, Burke and those involved were working to develop their vision for the Movement. A vision to “bring resources, support, and pathways to healing. And we got to work building a community of advocates determined to interrupt sexual violence wherever it happens.”

MeToo hit the spotlight on October 15, 2017, when actress, Alyssa Milano, took to Twitter.4

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

This Tweet was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein revelations earlier that month –– exposing his atrocious behavior throughout his career.

Women finally felt like it was okay to share their stories.

So, what does the MeToo Movement mean?

MeToo raises awareness about sexual violence –– shining light on how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are. It’s a social movement advocating for females who survived sexual violence and an avenue for them to speak out about their experiences. 

The MeToo Movement lets survivors of sexual abuse know they are not alone.

Let’s take a look at some stats:

  • One in five women has experienced rape or attempted rape.5
  • And one in five women has also been raped by an intimate partner.6
  • At the time of their first rape, 12% of women were only 10 years old (or younger).7
  • In juvenile facilities, one in ten detained youths experiences sexual assault or sexual abuse while in custody.8
  • 91% of rape and sexual assault are female.9

The important thing to remember here is these stats are not just numbers –– they’re people.

Me Too Leaders
Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

What did the MeToo movement accomplish?

The MeToo Movement was significant on a global scale. A massive shift happened and survivors of sexual abuse were finally were being heard. After years of powerful figures getting away with heinous acts, abusers started being held accountable for their actions. Blind eyes were no longer being turned at their behavior.

Take the Harvey Weinstein case, for example. Since then, states have started banning nondisclosure agreements that cover sexual harassment.

What does that mean?
In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his former assistant, Zelda Perkins, signed an agreement as part of a settlement. This agreement actually prevented her from telling anybody about the sexual harassment she experienced –– not even members of her own family. Because of this nondisclosure agreement, Zelda Perkins was silenced for nearly 20 years.10

This is a prime example of how these agreements allowed the wealthy to “buy their silence”. These agreements prevented anyone from finding out sexual harassment allegations against the powerful –– protecting the wrong people and putting others at risk.

Thanks to MeToo, several states began passing laws prohibiting the use of nondisclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases.

Conversations that were previously “uncomfortable” or “controversial” were suddenly happening –– and openly. Survivors were not only seeking support but were receiving it. In fact, some survivors are now getting financial restitution.

Of course, with any Movement, there is an expected backlash. There was a common concern of being falsely accused of sexual accusations. However, research has been done on the topic and shows “men are 230 times more likely to be sexually assaulted themselves than to be falsely accused of such acts.” 11

Though some men shared stories of harassment, abuse, and rape, most of the stories coming forward were from women. So Benjamin Law, an Australian journalist, and screenwriter took to Twitter by creating the hashtag #HowIWillChange. Men started joining in on the conversation, too.121. I WILL say something if I hear/see something
2. I WILL choose my words thoughtfully
3. I WILL be aware of my actions
4. I WILL be a safe person to be around
5. I WILL be a model for other men to follow

#HowIWillChange
–– Jem McDowall (@NYJemM) 13

Me Too Movement
Photo by Mélodie Descoubes on Unsplash

Here we are, three years later, and the movement is far from over. Even though COVID-19 has caused a bit of a setback, major progress is still being made. Especially in China, as a significant sexual harassment case has just begun in Beijing.

Back in 2014, when Zhou Xiaoxuan was an intern at the state broadcaster CCTV, she experienced sexual abuse by powerful and well-known TV host, Zhu Jun. In 2018, during the height of the MeToo Movement, Xiaoxuan accused Jun of groping and forcibly kissing her when she was an intern. 14

In May, China passed its first civil code – expanding the definition of sexual harassment. Yet, it’s still uncommon for sexual harassment cases, such as this, to make its way to court.

Xiaoxuan calls this “a major moment in the country’s nascent #MeToo movement.”

The MeToo conversation must continue to happen for a real change to take place.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and wish to seek help, here is a list of resources and hotlines: National Hotlines.

References

[1] University of Birmingham. (0001, January 01). Lockdown could have lasting effect on survivors of sexual violence and the services that support them, experts argue. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2020/09/lockdown-effects-on-survivors-of-sexual-violence.aspx

[2] About the Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/applied-health/about/index.aspx

[3] Mercury), (. (2020, October 28). Shocking rise in sexual violence during lockdown reported by vulnerable women. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/sexual-violence-rise-coronavirus-lockdown-19174306

[4] Harris, A. (2018, October 15). She Founded Me Too. Now She Wants to Move Past the Trauma. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/arts/tarana-burke-metoo-anniversary.html

[5] Sexual Violence is Preventable. (2020, May 01). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/sexual-violence/index.html

[6] Search for Statistics about sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.nsvrc.org/search/node?keys=Statistics+about+sexual+violence

[7] Search for Statistics about sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.nsvrc.org/search/node?keys=Statistics+about+sexual+violence

[8] Me too. Movement. (2020, November 18). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://metoomvmt.org/

[9] Search for Statistics about sexual violence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.nsvrc.org/search/node?keys=Statistics+about+sexual+violence

[10] #MeToo law restricts use of nondisclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases. (2018, December 31). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-nda-hollywood-20181231-story.html

[11] Lee, G. (2018, October 12). FactCheck: Men are more likely to be raped than be falsely accused of rape. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-men-are-more-likely-to-be-raped-than-be-falsely-accused-of-rape

[12] (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://twitter.com/mrbenjaminlaw https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/in-response-to-metoo-men-are-tweeting-howiwillchange_n_59e79bd3e4b00905bdae455d?ri18n=true

[13] (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://twitter.com/NYJemM

[14] China’s #MeToo movement gets moment in court as harassment case begins. (2020, December 02). Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/02/china-metoo-movement-gets-its-moment-in-court-as-sexual-harassment-case-begins