Have you too? Have you ever been abused? Have you ever been ignored when you said you did not want to? Have you ever felt resistance when you tried moving away a hand? Have you ever been shushed when you asked to stop?
From a slogan, to a twitter hashtag, to a movement of protest spurred by the hope for a change.
In 1997, activist Tarana Burke listened to the story of a 13-year-old who had been sexually abused. Ten years later, she created her own non-profit organization to help other victims of assault. She chose the slogan “me too”, as a reminder that you are never alone, that whatever you have been through, someone else has as well. Very recently, after the numerous accusations directed towards producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged other women to come forward and share their stories. This is when this phrase truly gained public recognition and became an emblem of hope and liberation for those who had been afraid to speak up.
There is no better proof of the magnitude and the urgency of the problem than the millions of responses that Milano’s post encountered.
Open your eyes. We meet those people every day. Those who think that abuse is not really happening anymore. Those who are simply so oblivious that they don’t notice, they don’t see, only because it doesn’t happen right under their nose. Or maybe because they don’t feel concerned. Some people are lucky, growing up away from such problems, building up for themselves a distorted vision of this world, living in a bubble because it is clearly too hard to face the facts. The facts, you ask me? Simple and plain: in 1976, the magazine Redbook conducted a survey reported that 90% of women who had participated in the research had experienced sexual abuse in the workplace. Over forty years later, in 2016, a survey called “The Elephant in the Valley” revealed that sixty percent of women who worked in technology received unwanted sexual advances at work. I would say that’s a pretty minimal improvement.
Eventually all problems get fixed, right? Well clearly, this one hasn’t yet. This fight has been going on for generations. In 1977, Leeds Revolutionary Feminist group started the yearly tradition of Reclaim the Night Marches, the last one being held on November 25th. In 1981, Rape crisis organisations were set up in England and Wales to offer counseling and assistance to victims of sexual assault. Try visiting their website. Your attention is immediately drawn to a big orange sign. It asks you if you need to talk. Do you?
For years, we have been struggling to fix this problem and for years, we have been taking steps that haven’t always worked.
But now, it’s different, because people are listening. Women are saying #metoo and speaking up. They’re telling their stories and people believe them and it seems like those who misbehaved are actually suffering the consequences of their actions. Indeed, actors Louis CK and and Kevin Spacey got their movies and TV shows dropped. Television host Charlie Rose got fired by CBS. Alabama judge and politician Roy Moore lost financial support. The list goes on. Now, some might argue that some of the accusations against these men might be unfounded. It’s true. But this isn’t the point. The point is: the world is starting to become aware of the situation, starting to realize that there is, in fact, a problem to fix.
This is the beginning of something new, the beginning of times when victims aren’t afraid to tell their stories anymore. Revolutions don’t happen overnight. This will take time and an indefinite amount of courage.
More recently, Alyssa Milano joined yet another campaign, symbolized by a different hashtag: #meat14, to raise awareness about the shockingly young age of some of the victims of sexual assault. Take a moment and think about what you did when you were fourteen. What was your routine? What were the main events that happened in your life? What were you scared of? Things like the dark? That horror movie that you watched with your friends? Some other fourteen year old’s’ fears were very different than yours.
You don’t know unless you experience it. You don’t understand how one can feel shame for something that isn’t their own fault. You have trouble figuring out how one can simultaneously be dying to talk about it yet categorically refusing to. You don’t know what it feels to constantly have a tiny knot in your throat because you’re scared it might happen again. To fight to trust again. To convince yourself that you’re safe.
No child, woman or man should experience this. The more people come forward with their stories, the more awareness is raised, the faster we can all move on to a better world. The world is listening, all you have to do is talk.
Women in Business_Bocconi Female Students Association