Story By Jessica Griffin
Two words: me too.
Within the last month, you may have opened up Twitter or Facebook and seen these words filling your feed. Except this time, it's not a shared blog post about a stranger's story or an article on updated statistics about sexual assault; it's your friend, aunt or classmate telling you that it has happened to them.
Tarana Burke started the #MeToo campaign about 10 years ago, according to an Oct. 19 New York Times article, "The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before the Hashtags." But it didn't go viral until actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it in light of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. The New York Times reported Burke was the sympathetic ear for a teenage girl who was a survivor of sexual abuse. At a loss for words about the girl’s story, Burke regretted not even being able to tell the girl “me too.” Ten years later, the campaign that sparked from this one conversation is trending all over the internet.
In the wake of #MeToo, it seems as though an under-the-table topic is slowly being brought into the light with more and more allegations and stories of assault being shared every day.
So, the question is: why now? Did it really take one man in a position of power abusing a multitude of women for us to finally say, "Enough is enough—we need to talk about this"?
A year ago, PULSE put out an award-winning feature story on sexual assault, specifically looking at its presence on Central's campus. Then, stories of survivors seemed to be harder to come by, though reports of rapes and other sexual assaults were up on our campus. Scrolling through social media today, we are now constantly seeing people we know saying, "Hey, this happened to me too."
Jill Hoxmeier, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, has been conducting research in this field for a number of years. When asked 'Why now?' Hoxmeier pinpoints an underlying issue that society seems to miss. “We see this famous person [Weinstein], he’s got a lot of money … he’s powerful, why would he need to sexually assault someone? Why would he need to use his power in that way? And we confuse sexual assault for sex, not violence and power.”
The Celebrity Factor
Hoxmeier also points out another significant incident that took place this year during the presidential race that sparked a flame on this topic worldwide. A month before President Trump’s election, a 2005 Access Hollywood clip was released in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. “I mean, I hate to say it’s a slap in the face," Hoxmeier says, but "for the people that have been working so hard to change policies, create new policies, to just generate awareness and speak to the more systemic issues that support violence against women … here we have a new president misaligned … with that [sentiment].” Perhaps more insulting for some, she adds that this video wasn’t a deal-breaker in regards to who was voted in as president. Trump's claims that "when you're a star... you can do anything" were seemingly upheld by the years of alleged abuse by Weinstein.
Andre Dickerson, Director for both Student Involvement and the Center of Leadership & Community Engagement, believes the 'why now' question can be answered by the influential roles celebrities have in our society. “Here’s a celebrity, an artist, an actress, someone who is admired by millions of people—and maybe they have embodied womanhood or they’ve embodied success or [something like that],” Dickerson explains, adding that when we "recognize that they’ve been attacked [or] assaulted, it resonates with [us] on a much deeper level.”
Coping in Silence
PULSEvideo Producer Jocelyn Waite interviewed a female student who experienced sexual harassment and assault before she came to Central. Follow her experience here through different interactive spaces.
Unlike most trending hashtags, the #MeToo campaign was not defined by one generation or demographic. Though this movement spread through all age groups, Hoxmeier notes that there was one significant difference between older demographics compared to those in college and younger—the level of self-disclosure.
She noticed that friends her age shared briefly the story connected to their post, while younger individuals tended to simply post the hashtag and maybe a small note supporting the fight for awareness.
“My concern is that for the most part, survivors of sexual assault have become very good at coping in silence, because socially we make them do that,” Hoxmeier says. “I think that it’s kind of the underground public health issue we talk about. We’ll say sexual assault is a public health issue, but we don’t see survivor struggle.”
She also notes that students may feel they experience more pressure or are more at risk in higher self-disclosure than older generations or even celebrities. “We have in our society just so much shame and stigma around people that have been sexually assaulted, that it reinforces the idea that they should take care of themselves, maybe go to a therapist, but don’t talk to [their] friends about it and just try to… keep [their] chin up, keep going to class,” she continues.
And crucially, Hoxmeier says, “Celebrities … don’t have [as much] to lose to come out and say ‘I was victimized,’ but your average college student probably believes they have a lot to lose just by saying that, if their friends don’t believe them or if their perpetrator is in their peer group.”
It's On Us
When we talk about sexual assault, it’s impossible not to immediately follow with the discussion of what we can be doing to prevent it. Campaigns like #MeToo focus on bringing awareness, while other movements such as #ItsOnUs look more into accountability and bystander behavior—how we can all have a part in prevention.
According to their website, the #ItsOnUs mission is to “recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
Hoxmeier suggests it’s the “recognize” and “identify” parts that college students tend to have the hardest time with. “It’s difficult for people in these social systems to differentiate between ‘they’re too intoxicated to give consent’ and ‘this is hook-up culture’ and ‘they know each other.’”
Dickerson, who serves as one of the faculty advisers for the Brother 2 Brother organization on campus that aims to encourage primarily male students to succeed in academics, professionalism and as citizens of the community, stresses the importance of taking responsibility not only for our own actions, but looking out for those around us. “We really teach awareness and accountability,” Dickerson explains, “so within the organization we make sure that we communicate being aware of our surroundings, being aware of our actions, being aware of the influence we have [and] making sure that when we are at events, meetings [or] social engagements ... that we are aware of our actions, we’re aware of the actions of those around us [and] we’re holding ourselves and others accountable for their actions.”
As a mentor, Dickerson strongly encourages bringing up the conversation and awareness in general, but also emphasizes the necessity of making it normal for guys to have these kinds of conversations with each other. “The guys have to talk to the guys and make sure that we’re holding each other accountable and raising awareness about it and say, ‘Hey, how can we do better and be better?'"
During his interview with PULSE's Jessica Griffin, the Center for Leadership and Community Engagements' Andre Dickerson shared his experiences as a CWU student helping raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault. Listen here:
Solidarity and Empowerment
There’s power in numbers. Going viral is one thing, but these hashtags, and so many more that are trending globally, are doing more than generating publicity for this issue, they are creating a force of community.
Alison Powell has her own #MeToo story and has experienced this bond for herself. “The #MeToo movement means that women are feeling emboldened in the rise of sisterhoods. Women are seeing other women rise up and we’re no longer afraid of the stigma of saying, ‘This happened, and it’s not okay.’ The feeling of solidarity is perhaps the most important thing about the movement.”
In sharing her story, Powell makes it clear that there is no specific situation or criteria to post for the campaign; there is a spectrum of stories tied to the hashtag. Whether it’s uncomfortable catcalling, inappropriate conversations, being asked to smile, over-touching, assault, rape— she says it’s all encompassed in the #MeToo movement.
“So many women I know have stories that are worse, and I share because some of them can’t or won’t. People need to know that this is common, and that it needs to change."
Although Dickerson disclosed that some of the closest women in his life are survivors of sexual assault and harassment, he says this fact did not soften the impact of the movement for him. “I’ve seen #MeToo posts from some of the most phenomenal, empowered, highly-educated women who I have so much respect for,” he comments. “To see that level of strength and courage they had to communicate that… I hold the same level of respect for [them, and] now have a higher level of admiration [for them] because I recognize them as being phenomenal women,” Dickerson says. He adds that the biggest kicker of all is the fact that you would have never known. “In my opinion, what we’re experiencing here is an empowerment."
Around the World
It’s not just an empowerment that is spreading across the U.S.—it is spreading around the world. Following this hashtag, numerous others have been trending globally. There are some that translate out to 'me too,' such as #YoTambién in Spanish, #גםאנחנו in Hebrew, and أنا_كمان# in Arabic. However, there are other countries that have adopted their own unique hashtags with the same purpose of raising awareness and empowering a community. In Italy, the hashtag #QuellaVoltaChe, which roughly translates to “that time when,” has opened the door for women to speak out about times they have experienced sexual harassment or assault.
According to an NPR article released in early November, a video of a beauty pageant in Peru went viral, sparking the hashtag #MisMedidasSon, which means “my measurements are.” In the video, each contestant went up to the microphone and said, “My measurements are...” and instead of giving facts about their body image, stated a statistic of gender violence in Peru. The video and hashtag quickly went viral and sparked a lot of traffic all over social media, inspiring people to share their support and stories.
One of the biggest hashtags to follow #MeToo was in France. Their hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc, which roughly translates to “expose your pig,” took the country by storm. Along with this particular hashtag going viral, protests and women’s marches occurred in response as well. According to an October article in the New York Times, with so much support and such a big response from this movement, it was proposed and is under discussion for France to institute a fine for men catcalling women in the streets.
It's Not Just Women
In relation to gender violence, one of the important aspects of the #MeToo campaign is the inclusivity of the movement. It isn’t uncommon to scroll through the posts and see people expressing support for men who are also posting their own stories of assault or abuse with the hashtag.
Additionally, Hoxmeier stresses the importance of recognizing the LGBTQIA+ community and the risk factor they face. She says especially when she is in front of her class in particular, “I don’t use gender-specific terms; I’ll just try to say ‘survivor’ and ‘perpetrator’ or 'when someone assaults somebody',” she says. “I think I can be more inclusive by just kind of using those gender-neutral terms. I think that is what we need to do. Not only because men can be victims, but we also know that people that identify outside of that binary also are at much greater risk.”
The biggest question after all of this is what’s the future of this discussion? Is it going to go back under the table when the news stories start dying down? Or are we recognizing survivors and their stories as valid and listening when they speak out?
“We’re talking about something that is preventable,” Dickerson says. “So hopefully the future of this discussion can be how do we try to make this something that could be prevented or we could see those statistics lowered significantly.”
“I think that all women hope that men will become aware of what women go through on a daily basis outside of relational outrage,” Powell comments. “Indignation over the treatment of a sister-mother-daughter is a place to start, but needs to expand beyond that relationship.”
Hoxmeier mentions that in light of this movement, she has seen some of the men on her feed own up to being part of the problem i.e. laughing at rape jokes, not speaking up at another’s sexist remarks and so on. "All too often, we just expect the people who are disempowered to make the changes, that’s just counter-intuitive.”
"My hope would be [for us to] all look at our own behavior and acknowledge our own participation in perpetuation this culture.”
THE WEINSTEIN EFFECT
By Jocelyn Waite
Sexual assault is not new. It's always been prevalent, but with the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the mounting sexual assault allegations in Hollywood it's at the forefront of the public’s mind once more.
As a film student and a young woman, the quickly unfolding allegations toward multiple powerful men in Hollywood was intriguing to me. It was a bittersweet experience researching this topic because although it is disheartening to hear how long these men have been using their power to abuse others, it is empowering to finally see these types of men face consequences for their actions.
There appears to be a disconnect between sexual predators and the weight of the actions they carry out. Hollywood elites are a prime example.
EXPOSING THE ABUSE
Harvey Weinstein, the infamous subject of the Oct. 5 New York Times exposé written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey which gave an in depth look at the decades of abuse he carried out, appeared to brush off the accusations made against him.
In the statement Weinstein sent The New York Times, he talked of growing up "in the '60s and '70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different." He did not deny the accusations, but rather redirected the blame, calling it a byproduct of the time he grew up in and claiming that he was committed to changing his behavior. Later in the statement he said he'd hired therapists and plans to "take a leave of absence from my company in order to face this issue head on." He also claimed he "cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them." However, if Weinstein was truly remorseful of his actions, he would not have gone to such extreme lengths to prevent these stories from coming to light.
Since The New York Times Weinstein exposé was published, many have come forward to share their experiences of sexual assault at the hands of powerful men. These men are being brought down by these mounting allegations against them. The authors of the exposé, Kantor and Twohey, had started a movement. Their article seemed to stand out from the typical sexual assault narrative because it focused on and critically examined the alleged abuser instead of the abused.
After Harvey Weinstein's past was exposed, actor Kevin Spacey's crimes soon followed suit. Actor Anthony Rapp told Adam B. Vary of BuzzfeedNews that Spacey "invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance." This experience is from 1986 when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26.
On Oct. 29, Spacey tweeted an apology to Rapp, claiming he did not remember the incident, seeing as it occurred over 30 years ago, and apologized for his "deeply inappropriate drunken behavior," finishing the apology by coming out as a gay man. In doing this, not only did Spacey use his sexuality as a distraction from the sexual assault accusation, but he also used it as an excuse for his actions, perpetuating the myth that gay men have pedophilic tendencies.
Rapp chose to share his experience after so long "not to simply air a grievance ... but to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent," according to BuzzfeedNews.
On Friday, Nov. 10, comedian Louis C.K. released a statement published in The New York Times in which he admitted the claims of his sexual misconduct—namely, masturbating in front of several female comedians—were true. Louis C.K. went on to say, "I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position."
Louis C.K.'s apology points to a loose grasp on his understanding of the impact his actions had on these women. To say he left these women "feeling badly about themselves" is a gross understatement. As his accusers said in the original Nov. 9 New York Times article, "Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct," written by Chris Cirillo and Mark Scheffler, what Louis C.K. did was abusive.
Most of the women said they feared "career repercussions" after their fateful encounters with Louis C.K. He is an influential comedian and his manager, Dave Becky, according to The New York Times, "represents Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler and other top performers ... his company, 3 Arts, puts together programming deals for nearly every platform." Becky’s sphere of influence is on par with Louis C.K.'s and could arguably hold a greater impact for the women and their careers since most were not very established at that point in time. To claim the only power Louis C.K. wields was that he was "admired" by these women is naïve.
KEEPING THE ABUSE QUIET
Sexual predators often do everything they can to discredit those they abuse and maintain their status and power. The extent they go to keep abuse quiet can be alarming.
In The New York Times' Weinstein article, it was revealed that "employees of the Weinstein Company have contracts saying they will not criticize it or its leaders in a way that could harm its 'business reputation' or 'any employee’s personal reputation.'" It seems these preventative measures were put in place in order to combat those who might speak out against Weinstein’s ongoing sexual abuse.
On Nov. 6, The New Yorker released an article written by Ronan Farrow titled "Harvey Weinstein's Army of Spies" that accused Weinstein of hiring “private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists." In the article, Farrow describes how Weinstein began in earnest to suppress the sexual assault and harassment allegations against him last fall. Farrow states that Weinstein "began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations.” Among the firms Weinstein hired was Kroll, "one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies," and Black Cube, "an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies." Weinstein tracked journalists and survivors in an attempt to silence and discredit their stories.
Powerful elites in Hollywood have been using their power to sexually abuse others for decades. They sway the public to their side, making it difficult to separate the manufactured image of themselves with the severity of their actions.
Woody Allen is infamously accused of having molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. According to a February 2014 Vanity Fair article by Maureen Orth, "10 Undeniable Facts About the Woody Allen Sexual-Abuse Allegation," the presiding judge in Allen’s 1992 custody battle for Farrow found Allen’s behavior towards the girl to be “grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her.” And yet, Allen has continued to make movies in the industry since then and his film “Wonder Wheel” is set to open in theaters this December. Similarly, according to a Sept. 15 Deadline article written by Dominic Patten, Bill Cosby has had several sexual assault allegations brought against him, but when he was tried for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand, it ended in a mistrial despite the amount of evidence stacked against him.
To be a silent bystander, and therefore complicit, allows the abuse committed by these predators to continue while going on to gain power and status without consequence. Actress Ellen Page mentions Cosby and Weinstein in a post to her Facebook page on Nov. 10 regarding sexual assault in Hollywood, saying for each, "[t]he crimes were his, but many were complicit. Many more chose to look the other way."
But the days of abuse with no consequence may no longer be the norm. Brent Lang and Justin Kroll reported in Variety on Nov. 10 that in response to the allegations against Kevin Spacey, Sir Ridley Scott cut him out of his upcoming film “All the Money in the World,” which is set to premiere in December. Not only was this move by Scott very sudden and last minute, it was also expensive. Additionally, Netflix released a statement Nov. 3 saying they will "not be involved with any further production of 'House of Cards' that includes Kevin Spacey."
Weinstein has also faced consequences. The New York Times' Brooks Barnes reported on Oct. 17 that Weinstein was first terminated from his position at The Weinstein Company on Oct. 8, with his formal resignation being placed on Oct. 17. Alvan Chang wrote in Vox on Oct. 14 detailing how Weinstein was ejected from the film academy by the board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, becoming only the second person in the academy’s history to be removed. Then, on Nov. 15, a class action lawsuit worth more than $5 million was filed that claims "Weinstein, The Weinstein Company and Miramax and others like lawyer David Boies ... actively participated in what is being called the 'Weinstein Sexual Enterprise.'" So, not only is Weinstein facing repercussions, but so are other major players who may have aided and abetted his predatory behavior over the years.
After hearing others come forward with their experiences, many celebrities were empowered to come forward with their own.
Actor Terry Crews went to Twitter on Oct. 10 detailing that he was sexually assaulted by a "high level Hollywood executive" at an industry event last year. Crews said the man groped him and smiled when he expressed his shock and confusion at the incident. The Hollywood executive knew the boundaries that constrained Crews from fighting back. In one of several tweets about the matter, Crews explained why he didn't fight back, saying "I was going to kick his ass right then—but I thought twice about how the whole thing would appear. '240 lbs. Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho' would be the headline the next day. Only I probably wouldn't have been able to read it because I WOULD HAVE BEEN IN JAIL. So we left."
The power of sexual abusers is not always physical. In places like Hollywood, the power usually comes from status.
In Ellen Page's Nov. 10 Facebook post, she recounts when she was 18 years old at a cast and crew "meet and greet" for the movie "X Men: The Last Stand." According to Page, the director of the film, Brett Ratner, pointed at Page and turned to a woman standing next to her who was 10 years older and said, “You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay.” This was before Page had come out as gay to herself, and the homophobic act left Page feeling "violated." No one on the cast or crew reprimanded Ratner for making such a comment. Page says she "proceeded to watch him on set say degrading things to women" and mentions a time a woman walked by a monitor as Ratner "made a comment about her 'flappy pussy'."
This hostile work environment continued because no one spoke out against Ratner's actions. Their silence was likely influenced by a sense of apathy developed over years of being in an environment where these comments and actions are accepted as the 'norm.' Or maybe it was inspired by their own misogynistic ideals.
In response to the amount of people who have come forward with stories of abuse, other celebrities have decided to use their power to give back to the industry in a positive way;
Actor Kevin Smith is donating his residuals from Weinstein films to a charity for women in filmmaking.
WHAT COMES NEXT
Page insists there is still work to do, saying, "I’ve heard the industry decry Weinstein’s behavior and vow to affect meaningful change. But let’s be truthful: the list is long and still protected by the status quo. ... We cannot look the other way."
With Hollywood starting to take action against their high profile predators, many wonder if this type of action will transfer over into politics.
"Sexual abuse is sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, a comedian, an anchor or a politician," actor Josh Gad said in a tweet on Nov. 9, "If Kevin Spacey gets edited out of movies & Roger Ailes loses his network why in God’s name do Trump & Moore get passes?"
Roy Moore is the Republican Nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat. In a Nov. 9 article by Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites for The Washington Post, around 40 years ago Moore 'dated' young women between the ages of 16 and 18 when he was in his early thirties. He also 'dated' a 14-year-old girl around this time. Only when Moore was with the 14-year-old did the interactions progress beyond kissing to sexual touching. Moore denies these claims.
Donald Trump has had sexual harassment and assault allegations following him for years. In Oct 2016 during his presidential run, The New York Times published a story by Natalia V. Osipova in which two women described moments with Trump where he either harassed or assaulted them. According to Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker on Nov. 9, "[b]y the end of October, twenty women had gone on the record to describe Trump’s sexual misconduct." And yet, in November of last year, Trump was elected to the highest governmental role in our political system without reprimand.
We cannot allow this to continue. When it comes to sexual abuse or harassment of any kind, no matter who the perpetrator is, being complicit to these acts of injustice aids the predator, hurts the survivor and allows abuse to continue. Don't be complicit.
Speak up. Be heard. And persist.
You Are Not Alone
In PULSE's "Sexual Assault" story last fall, then-Central Police Chief Michael Luvera said, "We want people to know that we want them to come forward and report so that we can try to prevent other cases happening on campus." PULSE's fall 2016 story also includes information on campus trainings on sexual assault, detailed information about how to report sexual assault on campus or to local police (anonymously or otherwise), and also how to help a friend in this position.
For free, confidential help from the Wellness Center:
Phone: (509) 963-3213
Location: SURC 139
Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
Another hashtag that quickly went viral here in the U.S. is #WhatWereYouWearing, sparked by an exhibit displaying 18 outfits tied to an individual’s story of assault. CWU followed the trend of other universities around the country and put up their own exhibit to break stereotypes and generalizations that occur in response to gender violence.
The outfits included in the exhibit ranged from men’s clothing to women's clothing, children’s clothing, work uniforms and everything in between. This display recently went up in the SURC, the library and the Milo Smith Tower Theatre in partnership with the CWU Theatre Department’s Fall production of Good Kids, which showed the aftermath of a high school girl getting raped at a party.