In October 2017 the hashtag #MeToo spread virally on social media, with hundreds of thousands of users all around the world sharing stories of sexual harassment and assault. The movement was quickly followed by a sister hashtag of #TimesUp, which sought to address sexual harassment and assault, more specifically in industries and the workplace.
Studies confirm such pervasiveness. One poll given right after the beginning of the movement recorded 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men saying they had experienced sexual harassment or assault, and most individuals experienced it in four or five locations. Top locations included public spaces, workplaces, and homes. The largest ongoing study breaks it down even further, showing similar trends: one in five women and one in 67 men reported rapes or attempted rapes, while one in two women and one in five men reported experiencing sexual violence other than rape.
Sexual harassment and violence – which disproportionately affects women, and even more so individuals with disabilities or of the LGBTQ community – is sadly not new and no realm is exempt from its dark influences: churches, schools, workplaces, governments, families, friends. While such behavior grossly affects certain vulnerable groups, it negatively affects us all.
As a woman, I can also say: #MeToo. Multiple times, in multiple settings. And while coming forward and facing this issue head on is the first step to real change, we must also push for progress and representation at the political level. As a female congressional candidate I believe that we must protect, strengthen, and pass legislation that moves us forward. Yes. Elect more women (currently, 19% of US Congress Members are female). But also fight on every level to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and policies that protect, not harm.
The time is now to believe those who come forward, to support them and make the changes necessary to make “#MeToo” a rare occurrence rather than a collectively common shared experience. The time is now to take seriously any accusations in our workplace, families, friends, religious institutions, and political parties. We must not succumb to power plays in our workplaces or gaslighting within our communities. The time is now – to not only speak out against sexual harassment and assault – but to take action. The time is now to elect women to represent us. The time is now to push for legislation that represents and works for the women of our country.
If you or someone you know needs related help, the number for the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is 800-656-HOPE (4673). They will connect you with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.