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#MeToo Update

The headlines – that’s what I remember the most.

Every day seemed to bring new ones by the dozen.

Every day another celebrity was saying it: with every social media post, every media broadcast another horrifying story was shared.

Forced kisses. Lewd comments. Fondling. Opportunistic gropes.

Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong’o and Aly Raisman all found the courage to stand together and share their #MeToo stories. One could only hope that the pain and anger these women felt from not speaking up would soon dissipate, when in reality it was  just the beginning.

Following the viral New York Times article touching on dozens of allegations against Harvey Weinstein – taking place for nearly three decades – women across Hollywood began to break the silence; calling out their assaulters.

Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. Larry Nassar. Bill O’Reilly. President Donald Trump.

More recently, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford opened up to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the assault that Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, allegedly attempted at a high school party that changed her life forever –  a wound she’s held for 36 years.

It’s a trauma that Maria Gallagher and Maria Archila experienced too. Their unscripted words seemingly protruded through the broadcast during an emotional elevator confrontation with U.S. Senator Jeff Flake. Flake was one of the senators who voted yes for Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court despite the assaults reported not only by Dr. Ford, but also Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez.

“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” Gallagher said, “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.’’

Yet again, these women were not believed and were, in fact, ignored. Without a thorough and complete FBI investigation the senate vote was rushed and Kavanaugh was confirmed into the nation’s highest court with a vote of 50-48.

Portrayed as a “great man” by President Trump, Kavanaugh, yet another rich, white, privileged man, was granted more power to make decisions for millions of Americans, adding more fuel to the already heated #MeToo movement.

One might think this was a setback for the #MeToo movement – a loss to survivors of sexual violence. Despite his confirmation, Dr. Ford’s testimony led to an outpouring of rallies and support from women across the country.

Whether on social media, in the streets, or through other news outlets, victims have been coming forward and speaking up and this number has only continued to grow.

Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, said it best in an interview with CNN when she said, “Pandora’s box is open, and Pandora is pissed.” Women are pissed, but they haven’t just started feeling this way.

Yes, sexual violence and its pervasiveness has only begun to storm media headlines in recent months. Numerous female celebrities have only just recently come forward to speak out on the sexual assault and harassment they have experienced at the hands of some of America’s most powerful and influential men. However, sexual violence has been an issue that many have been fighting to address in communities across the country for years.

It happened to the secretary at the local law firm, to the maid at the hotel down the street, maybe to the girl that sits next to you in your favorite class. Women have been dealing with sexual assault and harassment in the dark corners of America for decades, but where are their stories?

Sexual assault isn’t just happening to women seen on the red carpet – harassed by well known men sitting in high places.

In fact, although the #MeToo movement seemingly originated in the tweet of actress Alyssa Milano just a few months ago, the initiative actually originated in Harlem. In an effort to offer help to underprivileged women of color who were victims of sexual assault, activist Tarana Burke, launched the movement over 10 years ago.

Everyday women and men are assaulted by their bosses, family members and co-workers.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped at some point in their life and one in three women have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

The #MeToo movement has made clear the prevalence and abundance of sexual assault and harassment cases in America, creating a safe space for many women to rally together. But at the forefront of the movement are the experiences of wealthy, affluent and educated women.

Somehow the movement, media outlets in particular, has seemingly forgotten a plethora of other women who have been enduring these same problems – leaving them without a microphone.

Yes, women are furious, but is that fury enough for actual progress?

Is it enough to do away with men who continue to sit comfortably in positions of power, while women are still faced with the hard cost of coming forward? Is it enough to highlight and bring coverage to all victims of sexual violence?

Sexual assault and harassment is a systematic problem.  #MeToo is more than a moment of importance only when a new story is told and a new name is called out. It’s more than headlines darting across the front page of your favorite news source.

#MeToo is more than a moment of just talking about it.

This movement is far from over.

 

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