It took the Weinstein scandal, a big Hollywood producer with accusers who are well-known Hollywood actresses and models, to lead to his shameful downfall and generate a national conversation about sexual assault.
Part of that conversation is the rapidly growing social media trend: #MeToo, which over half a million women have posted on social media platforms to indicate they have suffered sexual harassment or abuse and share their stories.
To be honest, #MeToo has been a trigger for me, and certainly for countless others. Despite working to connect the dots between all forms of sexual exploitation and frequently hearing stories like those shared by millions of women in the past two days, I have not been able to keep my own past memories and the anger resulting from that kind of treatment stifled.
I was raped as a toddler by a teenage boy caregiver in a daycare. I have told only four people in my whole life…until now.
On homecoming night in high school, I was attacked by my date – dress ripped, hair torn, bruised and left running through a dark neighborhood.
As an outspoken activist against the misogyny and extreme violence in pornography, I’ve received rape and death threats and had my pictures transposed onto hardcore pornography and uploaded all over the Internet.
Two weeks ago, I was 36 weeks pregnant in the grocery store with my two toddlers when a slithering middle-aged man followed us from aisle to aisle and then lunged at me begging to touch and actually grabbing my stomach.
The truth is that I experience, many women experience, offensive, harassing behavior so regularly in our day-to-day lives that we just move forward as if it’s somewhat normal. There’s no other way to cope with it.
#MeToo is a wake-up call to humanity that we must not accept this kind of culture in our society.
Surely, there is blame to place somewhere.
What about the role of mainstream pornography, with its raw, brutal, debasing themes of incest, racism, teens, and near universal violence against women?
What about the hundreds of tips on how to be sexier, more appealing, and more of what a man wants pushed on women from the likes of Cosmopolitan Magazine?
Let us consider the role popular TV shows, like HBO’s Game of Thrones have on glamorizing sexual violence, prostitution, rape, and incest.
Perhaps the message sent from our U.S. Congress that trafficked women and children are not important enough to protect is teaching the public that women really are commodities to be used, abused, and discarded.
Maybe, part of the problem is the refusal of schools to deliberately address the rampant sexual assault or the widespread exposure of our youth to sexually explicit media in K-12 campuses. Could this have an impact on the skyrocketing sexual assault charges in our colleges?
Let us not forget the lessons conveyed from our political leaders – Mr. Trump’s locker room talk and countless attacking tweets towards women or Mrs. Clinton’s recent dismissal of past sexual assault at the hands of her husband as just “behavior in the past.”
If we want these #MeToo experiences to decrease, we must begin to change our culture.
It is not just the fault of the men who are doing the harassing and carrying out the violence. All men must be awakened from their sense of complacency and they must see their role in correcting the problem.
Women, you are also culture creators, role models, and leaders. Little boys and girls are watching you and look up to you — especially celebrities, movie stars, and musicians. Remember, your decisions and the causes you choose to fight for (or not fight for) impact our culture as well.
We must recognize that objectification, rape culture, pornography, sexual violence, prostitution, sex trafficking must be addressed and the links between them made known.
We need our political leaders, business leaders, and all community leaders to step up to implement solutions and be a voice for change.
We must have conversations in our homes, with our kids, starting at the youngest of ages.
We must oppose sexual exploitation in all of its forms right when we see it.
Let’s not hear the half a million #MeToo voices and then fail to act. We must make this a concrete moment for social and cultural change that doesn’t just pass as if it’s just another fleeting media story or trending Twitter hashtag.