If you haven’t seen #MeToo trending on Twitter or the stories cropping up on your newsfeed lately then where have you been? The # was actually started up over 10 years ago by Tarana Burke who founded the Me Too movement to give young women, particularly young women of colour from low wealth communities, a sense of empowerment from the understanding that they are not alone in their circumstances. Recently the #MeToo went viral in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein news. Many celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon have spoken up about their experiences of sexual assault raising the profile of the # further.
I recently watched In The Frow’s YouTube Video where she shared her own experience of sexual assault, and I thought she was so right in saying that this conversation needs to continue, the #MeToo shouldn’t just be a trend for a week and we shouldn’t let it die out. One thing that has become very apparent is that almost everybody has their own #MeToo story. There is a disgustingly huge number of women and men who are victims of sexual harassment and assault across the globe and there still needs to be some serious changes in attitudes and punishments towards sexual assault.
There seems to be a lack of up to date stats for sexual assault and I think that given how many people have spoken out recently the cases may actually be much higher but here is an overview:
- 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013)
- Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour.
- 1 in 3 teenage girls in England has been pressured into doing something sexual by a partner (Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships, 2015)
- A third of female students in the UK have experienced inappropriate touching or groping at university (Telegraph study, 2015)
- Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013)
I personally think the #MeToo has been a great way to get people talking more openly about their own experiences. My friendship group is very close and we are very open with each other but when it comes to sexual harassment and assault it just isn’t a conversation we’ve ever really had. When we think of sexual assault we tend to think of the worst things that could happen and so it seems we’ve all accepted the bum pinches, the innappropriate hand on a leg, that guy that gets a little too close for comfort when he’s had too much to drink and the wolf whistles in the streets as part of everyday life. But no-one should have to put up with that. Nobody has the right over your body and if anyone touches you without your consent it is never ok.
I won’t go into every detail or experience I have had with sexual assault but I guess the first thing I remember is when I was about 14 years old, an old drunk man grabbed me and kissed me, I’d never even kissed anyone before and I didn’t exactly look old for my age. I remember a boy forcefully putting his hand up my skirt at an under 18’s night as I walked past him, I dug my nails in and twisted his wrist and carried on walking. I never saw his face and I never mentioned it to my friends at the time. A few years back I was stalked for months by a complete stranger and luckily the police put a stop to it before anything progressed further but I spent those few months looking over my shoulder. In my friendship group experiences range from groping to threats of rape to actual rape. The ones who haven’t experienced sexual assault consider themselves lucky but shouldn’t this be standard?!
Whilst this post mostly talks about sexual harassment and assault on women I realise there are a huge amount of men who endure this daily too. This purpose of this post is not to divide men and women or to point fingers at one another. It is here to remind you that this happens every day, in public places, on the tube, at work, in pubs, in the street and it can happen to anyone. Lets all help to raise the profile of this movement because it is something that affects us all. Even if you are one of the “lucky ones” I guarantee you will know someone who has been a victim of some kind of sexual harassment or assault and it needs to stop.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by this is any way, these websites and helplines for survivors of sexual abuse may be helpful.