#MeToo is powerful. It is important. It is brave. It is real.
In light of recent allegations in Hollywood against Harvey Weinstein, the statement, “Me Too” has been posted on social media by millions of women to show that sexual assault is everywhere, and it happens to the people closest to us.
The “Me Too” hashtag was a response to a call to action by Alyssa Milano, an actress and activist, who tweeted that this social media campaign, “might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
And it has.
“Lots of women and lots of really close friends were posting and sharing that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed. It was saddening to see that this is happening on such a wide scale,” said Ryder Hathaway, a senior at Castleton University.
After witnessing numerous people posting the hashtag, he said it was, “disturbing and eye opening.”
Sexual harassment happens everywhere. The workplace, college campuses, bars, on the street, and on Capitol Hill, with our current president having even bragged about it.
According to a study done by Cosmopolitan Magazine, one in three women have been sexually harassed at work.
Sexual harassment is defined by the American Association of Women as, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” This type of sexual abuse occurs frequently when there is a power differential between people, according to Castleton University Dean of Students Dennis Proulx
Many celebrities including Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon, Gabrielle Union and Terry Crews have all shared their stories about being sexually harassed or assaulted, usually by a director or a wealthy, powerful man in the movie business.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as, “sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.”
Some people feel that definition is far too limiting.
“It’s is not just back-alley campus rape. It’s not always Brock Turner. It’s when you wake up in the morning and don’t want to be with the person lying next to you. That is rape. That is sexual assault,” said Karsen Woods, a recent Castleton graduate, who posted “Me Too” on her various social media accounts. After noticing a few “Me Too” posts, Woods said she wanted to, “make a quiet but bold stance.”
“My position in the world gives me a voice that I should use to lift other voices,” she said. Woods founded the Castleton University chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action.
In response to her post, Woods received a lot of love and compassion. But along with the kind words, she also received something very alarming.
Her assaulter liked her Facebook post.
“I genuinely think that he did not realize that he assaulted me because that type of behavior is so normalized,” Woods said.
“Me Too” has given victims of sexual assault and harassment a platform to share their stories. The statement gives a fresh voice to an old problem. It’s a problem that Tarana Burke was trying to address over 10 years ago. Burke is the creator of the “Me Too” movement and her ideas were the inspiration for Milano’s social media campaign.
“What the #Me Too campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has really enabled us to do, is put the focus back on the victims,” said Milano, in an interview on Good Morning America.
The stories that arose from the “Me Too” campaign have started a much-needed conversation about sexual assault. In order to fix this normalized behavior, Castleton senior, Ashlee Brady-Kelly said, “we need to start having a dialogue and we need to start changing that dialogue. It’s happening so we need to educate and we need to advocate.”
Education and advocacy seems to be the answer to a lot of social issues that our society is facing, and Castleton University is well aware of the much-needed change to how we address sexual assault.
In recent years, reports of sexual assault have been on the rise at Castleton University. In reaction to the recent release of the Campus Safety and Security Report, Proulx said, “The numbers have steadily increased, and we don’t know whether that is because there are more assaults happening or if more people are reporting instances of assault.”
In 2014, there were nine reports of dating violence. In 2015 the number rose to 15 according to the Campus Safety and Security report, and to 20 in 2016.
The university has many programs in place to educate the community about sexual abuse, and takes its role in victim advocacy very seriously. Amy Bremel is the Coordinator of Advocacy, Activism and Non-Violence Education. She works with victims of sexual abuse on campus and ensures that nobody has to go through their experience alone.
“Most people who have been victims of assault are quiet and do not speak up. They are afraid of not being believed,” she said.
Bremel offers her services to anybody who is struggling with assault or harassment, and she spends most of her time on campus either being an advocate for victims of sexual abuse or educating people on what we can all do to dismantle rape culture.
Anna Foster, a Castleton transfer student, hoped to inspire others to speak out by posting “Me Too” on her Facebook page. Foster experienced sexual assault as a college freshman, a time when many other young women will encounter some form of sexual harassment or assault. Foster offers some helpful solutions to those who are looking to make a positive difference after witnessing their friends and family share their “Me Too” stories on social media.
“You can speak up for your female friends more often in public settings, or when guys do make inappropriate jokes or insinuations, you can jump in and change that harmful behavior,” Foster said.
Janet Hazelton, the director of Human Resources at CU, sends a message out to all Castleton students, faculty and staff.
“It is unacceptable, and it is not tolerated,” she said.