The voices of courageous survivors sharing their experiences has made it clear that sexual victimization is more pervasive than we’ve ever acknowledged. It’s not the occasional perpetrator who ‘behaves badly’. We’ve got people in positions of power in sports, education, politics, entertainment, tech-everywhere- who routinely commit acts of gender based violence…. and we look the other way. There will always be people who choose to victimize; our problem is that we are a society that tacitly condones these behaviors when the person committing the acts is well-liked or important or talented or successful. Where we go from here?
The solution lies with all of us. We have the power and responsibility to change the norms that allow sexual violence to continue. As these public figures have been exposed for harassing, intimidating or perpetrating sexual assault, it’s also come to light that their colleagues were often aware of these behaviors… but rarely confronted them. Even if they personally abhorred these behaviors, their silence condoned them. Imagine if instead, they’d confronted or exposed the behaviors….there might be far fewer individuals responding with #MeToo. Imagine if fathers, coaches, and friends gave voice to the importance of respect and consent. Most men do not commit acts of sexual aggression… yet we tolerate a social norm of toxic masculinity that reveres the conquest. What if instead, men and women fostered positive social norms that celebrated equality, choice, and communication as hallmarks of masculinity?
One of my favorite symbols of hope in the path toward social change comes from a recent rape case. Brock Turner, better known as the Stanford swimmer, was in the process of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. Two men on bicycles saw the act, interrupted it and chased him down. The young women who survived his assault sleeps with a drawing of two bicycles over her bed… a reminder that any one of us can be a hero for someone.
Together we can end relationship and sexual abuse. The MeToo I’d like to see in the future is not the voices of more courageous survivors telling their stories… but a commitment from each of us to say “Me Too” in taking action to end sexual violence.