In the last few years, #metoo has become a part of the vernacular here in the US, and seemingly throughout much of the world. In an effort to show solidarity with survivors – and bring some much needed attention to the rampant culture of sexual harassment and abuse in this culture (like so many cultures) – people have begun to share their own experiences and victimization or simply add a #metoo when others share.
It’s a beautiful movement, and I love seeing people reminding one another that they are not alone, that they are seen, and that harassment or abuse is not okay. Something that has been taboo forever is finally getting some attention as we work to remove the stigma from victims/survivors and place appropriate responsibility on perpetrators. It’s powerful, and I’m thankful for it.
Connotation behind #metoo
As the movement has picked up speed, support and has become more and more a part of the culture, it naturally brings with it a connotation. This is more opinion-based than anything else, but it seems to me that the #metoo movement, when mentioned, brings up pictures or stories of sexual harassment in the workplace, and inappropriate behavior by bosses or superiors at work who are usually men.
Obviously, this kind of harassment and abuse is a huge problem and deserves the attention it is getting. It needs to stop. But, I wanted to take some time to write about those lesser-seen instances of abuse or harassment that are happening. I wanted to take some time to remind people that abuse can look exactly like what is described above, and sometimes, it can look very different. A movement that is doing so much good can also make survivors of other kinds of abuse feel a little more isolated or broken or messed up, because even while abuse is being recognized generally, theirs feels different and doesn’t fit the mold.
So, who actually gets to say #metoo?
What if you weren’t assaulted by a boss, but sexually abused by your father? What if you were assaulted or abused by a woman? What if you’re a man who was victimized? What if you’re non-binary or part of the trans community who was assaulted? Can you say #metoo?
The Movement’s Beginnings
I did just a little bit of research around the #metoo movement just to get an idea of where it came from (I’d recommend researching it yourself- interesting stuff!). It turns out, someone named Tarana Burke started the movement. From what I understand, it initially began as a movement within communities of color, specifically created to help Black women and girls get the support they needed. This was done partially by creating a curriculum and space for the topic of sexual violence to be discussed within the Black community. Of course, the movement has become wider than that, but this is a good reminder that it is not (and never was) a movement just for white celebrities in Hollywood, even if that is where we see it at large.
Burke has been asked about the origins and purpose of the movement, and she clarifies that it was also never about bringing down men in power; it is and always was a movement specifically for survivors of sexual assault. Even now as it’s community expands, Burke has made it clear that it is a movement for survivors, which includes a broad spectrum- all people who have been sexually assaulted, harassed, or victimized.
The Bigger Picture
So, I just wanted to write a quick post to remind those who feel like they don’t quite fit with what the movement has become, that as far as I can tell, if you’ve been sexually abused, assaulted, molested or harassed, #metoo is for you, too. Experiences of abuse or harassment are complicated enough without having to measure it with a common definition or picture of the norm.
If you’ve experienced that kind of abuse (or any kind, for that matter), your story is worth sharing and processing, even if it doesn’t look like the others. If you have experienced abuse or harassment, we at Optimum Joy would love to make space for you to share and process. You aren’t alone, and we’d be privileged to walk through some of the healing process with you.
Written by therapist Clair Miller
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