“Me Too”: Surviving, Connecting & Mobilizing to Dismantle Rape Culture
Years before the rise of social media organizing and hashtag activism, activist Tarana Burke began the “Me Too” campaign to aid survivors of sexual harassment and assault in underprivileged communities. Ebony reports that Burke intended “Me Too” to be “used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”
Over the past week, Burke’s movement which began a decade ago, was pushed into the mainstream as actress Alyssa Milano posted a Twitter suggestion to share experiences of sexual assault and harassment to build awareness for the magnitude of the problem. Since then, hundreds of thousands of women and men shared their experiences with loved ones, friends and colleagues, recollecting harrowing stories of assault.
While many survivors were unsurprised by the avalanche of stories; many of their friends on social media were. My Final unequivocally supports survivors in their healing process and acknowledges that each survivor’s path to achieving healing is unique. Many survivors shared their experiences on social media with the hashtag #MeToo but for many others, sharing their abuse was not an option. Survivors do not owe the public their stories and unfortunately, sharing such an experience can lead to further victimization. For these anonymous survivors, messages of support were also prevalent.
Burke’s movement began with a mandate to support radical healing and dismantle the culture which denies survivors justice. An essential task for activists in the age of hashtag activism is to build a movement beyond simple messages of support. In order to confront the powers which perpetuate violence and injustice we must go beyond sharing and actively engage with our world to destroy the roadblocks to justice.
There are a couple of places we can start. First, by acknowledging that rape culture and injustice exist and we have the power to confront and change it. RAINN reports that every 98 seconds an American experiences sexual assault and for every 1,000 rapes only six rapists receive convictions. The bar is set so high for convicting abusers that many continue to commit violence in our communities. The justice system has ignored survivors as rape kits languish for years in backlogs. We can elect judges, district attorneys and government officials which are eager to tackle these issues head on. We can lobby and educate those who are public servants and representatives about the necessity to keep our communities safe and devote necessary resources.
We can begin to tackle rape culture at a young age by teaching our children in sexual education courses what affirmative consent means and how to reduce ambiguity in romantic interactions. We can teach young men and women to respect others when they say “no” and to identify abusive emotional tactics which encourage them to say “yes” or nothing at all, against their wishes. By adopting affirmative consent we can more clearly reject relationship dynamics wherein one partner rejects sex repeatedly before finally “giving in.” This model normalizes sex after one party is gradually pushed to partake in action with which they are uncomfortable.
We can educate ourselves in an intersectional approach by listening and respecting the experiences of people of color, gender non-conforming individuals, queer and transgender survivors. We cannot approach rape culture in a cis-gendered or binary way if we want to destroy it. Communities which experience oppression also experience higher rates of sexual assault. We must elevate their experiences and assist in their process for seeking justice.
We must demand that men in our lives take an active role in the dismantling of rape culture. This means educating and sharing what they can do to assist survivors. Whether through active listening, supporting effective policy, maintaining a space for survivors to be free from judgement or calling out friends and family members when they support rape culture in comments, jokes and actions.
My Final Say acknowledges that there is no single specific policy which will solve rape culture and provide justice to survivors. We must combine many policies, resources, approaches and voices to making our communities, workplaces and homes safer. To meet this end, My Final Say supports survivors wherever they are in their path finding peace. To survivors everywhere: we will continue organizing, educating and mobilizing until justice is realized. Thank you for your bravery and grace in the face of such obstacles. Together we will create a better world.
Desireé Dallagiacomo & FreeQuency - "American Rape Culture"