Last month, the infamous Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. Not only was this a victory for Weinstein’s victims, but also for everyone affected by the #MeToo movement. Weinstein’s sentencing gives hope to sexual assault survivors that other abusers will also be subjected to legal consequences for their actions. As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on how #MeToo has affected me as well as other teens.
A Little History
The #MeToo movement was originally started in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke. She used the phrase “Me Too” on social media platform Myspace. She used the phrase as a means of “empowerment through empathy” for women of color who had also suffered from sexual abuse. In 2017, #MeToo was mainstreamed by actress Alyssa Milano when she tweeted asking sexual assault survivors to respond saying “#MeToo.”
But what does this mean for teens? Some teens, like 15-year-old Nora, of Clifton, NJ, feel empowered by #MeToo:
“The #MeToo movement has created a communal feeling for me. It reminds us that we have each other’s backs. It has allowed us to grow stronger and use our voices that for so long have been silenced. The #MeToo movement has made me feel more comfortable and secure; it reminds me that if someone were to harass me in any way, it must not and will not be suppressed.”
Not only has #MeToo allowed sexual assault survivors to feel support, but it has given them a voice.
What Can We Do?
Teens, like Nora and I, may not be able to change how sexual assault is dealt with in a court of law. However, plenty of us are advocating for ourselves and others. And one day, we’ll be the ones making laws and writing rules.
For now, I want to continue raising awareness. Writing this blog post is the biggest outlet I have right now. Until I can create legal change for sexual assault survivors (like the lawyers who convicted Weinstein), I want to make an effort to change how we talk about sexual assault. I see so many of my peers diminishing sexual harassment and assaults they experience. I still hear the old example being used of when a boy pulls a girl’s pigtails on the playground, it means that he likes her and that makes it O.K. What kind of message is that sending?
It may be too late to go back in time and tell lots of pigtailed girls that message is false, but I can tell my teenage friends what they actually deserve when it comes to treatment. The recent news about Weinstein’s sentencing gave me hope that people are paying attention to how widespread sexual assault is and that we can do something about preventing it.
I hope #MeToo has helped to create a culture of better communication about consent and safer sexual encounters. This month—and every month—let’s make sure to talk about it.