The year 2017 has seen a surge of sexual assault allegations and denunciations. It feels like there is no escape from the sickening news littering the media. High profile actors such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, along with a variety of politicians have been accused of sexual harassment. The overwhelming number of degrading infractions and heinous crimes have been met with utter grace by the masses mobilized by social media. By utilizing platforms such as Twitter and Instagram celebrities and indignant voices have had their voices heard by stating the simple yet elegantly poignant words #MeToo. While the campaign has come under attack by French feminists for ‘hating men,’ many have found solidarity in the many stories that have surfaced.
This movement was first inspired by Tarana Burke who had long used the statement to help victims overcome the pain of sexual trauma. In 2006 it began as a grassroots movement to promote ‘empowerment through empathy.’ Burke worked in Alabama counseling the marginalized, where a 13-year-old girl confided in her, she had been sexually assaulted. At the time it was difficult to respond to the tragic story of the young girl, instead of comforting her, Burke watched as she walked away trying to tuck her secret back into its unsaid box. The statement of solidarity has only recently been picked up and popularized by the actress Alyssa Milano, when she suggested the statement be taken to Twitter to expose the magnitude and prevalence of sexual assault. It is meant to console victims and give them a safe, and supportive platform to express their grievances.
The 2017 TIMES person of the year has been declared as ‘the silence breakers.’ What began as a small movement has now transcended language barriers and location by including the whole world in an open dialogue. Sexual assault has long been considered taboo, it has been a silent weight on the women or men who have endured by concealing their experiences. The continued propagation of #MeToo has started a ‘reckoning.’ Conversations on boundaries are beginning to take place, and those who considered themselves safe of accusations are now being confronted.
The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, income, classes, and occupation. They have faced very different fears with respect to sexual infractions, yet they all stand united in the face of these crimes. For some, this fear was less visceral but no less real. Reasons for not speaking out: people believed their allegations would shape their identity–they feared perpetually being viewed as the victim. This movement has attempted to reverse the image of victims as ‘weak’ instead they are branded as empowered as they share harrowing stories of survival and endurance. Amidst the long and bleak history of sexual predation, 2017 has seen the beginning of a new dawn. As stated by Oprah in her Golden Globes speech this year, perhaps the day will come in which no one has to utter the words ‘Me Too’ again.