As I reviewed my notes for the forthcoming high school Model United Nations conference in a seat by the sliding doors of the 12:30 p.m. BART train, I jerked my head up as an evidently wasted man with a bottle of alcohol got on board and began causing a ruckus. “Don’t look this way … please don’t notice me,” was the thought rushing through my head, as I cowered in place and stared out the window. “Damn gorgeous, tell me your name. I’ll guess where you’re from.” I stayed quiet and refrained from making eye contact. “B—-,” he said, loud enough to turn a few heads. “Thinks she’s too good for me.” Fellow passengers stayed quiet with looks of pity on their faces as he continued to spew insults and remarks at me.
Fast forward to when I was headed to my local Walgreens to pick up a prescription, when a group of men began following me from the bus stop. Ignoring their vile statements about my figure, I speed walked for a few blocks and ran into the closest store I could spot — a Jack-in-the-Box — to escape the frightening situation. The tears flowed down my face as I called my mom to come pick me up. The cashier was kind enough to let me stay in the back until they left. And how could I forget the horror on my face when I refused a kiss from a classmate in high school, and he towered over me with a cold face. “I’m going to get that kiss whether you like it or not.” There weren’t enough words to express my fear to my counselor and my teacher.
These are just a few times out of the many that I’ve faced sexual harassment. The issue is more pressing and prevalent than you would assume. According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. One in six women and one in 33 men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
When I opened my Twitter account last week, one specific post amongst the memes and old 2013 Vines on my feed caught my eye. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the following: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I was overwhelmed with a sense of comfort when I opened the thread to see a multitude of both women and men sharing the hashtag to voice their negative experiences and stand in solidarity with victims.
The response has taken social media platforms by storm ever since ex-Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of raping or sexually assaulting 60 famed actresses in the industry. Actresses such as Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale and Ashley Judd spoke out about the assaults, ultimately creating a domino effect and resulting in more victims stepping forward to share their stories. The problem is not restricted to just the entertainment industry; #MeToo has given victims of sexual harassment and assault a platform to voice their concerns.
I was amazed to see the problem being brought up by everyone from my closest friends and colleagues in school, to my old middle school teacher on Facebook, to strangers on Twitter who have been intimidated into silence for too long. It is commonly known that sexual assault is a tremendous matter of concern on college campuses across the nation. We take to social media to spread our word of support and discuss the severity of sexual assault incidents every time they are brought into light — for instance, when Joe Biden gave his compelling speech on consent and the magnitude of sexual violence present on university campuses, or when Brock Turner, who raped an unconscious and intoxicated woman, was released halfway through his six month prison sentence for “good behavior.”
Injustices like these trend on Twitter for a while. And then, they are buried under the next major issue without being addressed and the cycle continues. With #MeToo, people are finally talking. It is removing the stigma that so many feel with having faced sexual harassment or assault, and opening up a widespread chance of having your own stories heard. We need to acknowledge that this is only the first step, and that this movement can only bring forth positive change, as it bolsters our determination to be recognized as equals. When I posted the #MeToo status on Twitter, I joined legions of women and men who are attempting to bring the issue at hand to light. Sharing your story takes a great deal of strength, but don’t worry if you feel alone because … #MeToo.
Note: The University of California, Riverside Title IX office provides counseling referrals and other resources for victims of sexual assault and harassment.
Title IX Office Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm; (951) 827-7070