“Me Too”: A short intro for aspiring allies

If you’ve been paying any attention to the internet, you’ve seen hundreds of people acknowledging their experience with sexual assault and/or harassment with the simple message — “me too.”

“Me too.”

“Me too” — a short but powerful statement. It is solidarity. It is acknowledgement. It is belief. It is support. It is a call for change.

The reality is, survivors of sexual violence and harassment have been whispering “me too” amongst ourselves since the dawn of time. It’s a phrase that only becomes more telling as it is told.

I wish I was surprised at how many of my friends have been impacted by this violence. I wish I were shocked at the horrific treatment of women, folks in the LGBTQ community, people of color, people with disabilities, and how sexual violence is used to further oppress them. But at a time in which we elect a man who has openly admitted to assaulting women as the leader of the free world — I remain shocked only by the silence of my friends.

Men (particularly y’all white folks and straight folks) — you have a lot of power. You may not recognize it. It’s easy to take something for granted when it has sat on your shoulder since birth.

I’m asking you to use it.

We have been screaming “me too” at the top of our lungs. Do you hear us? Without the support of those in power, our “me too”s are lost in your silence and complicity.

Called out? Don’t @ me? I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about. I know it’s hard to know what to do and how best to be supportive. Real talk: Your discomfort is miniscule compared to the experiences of survivors everywhere who face high rates of PTSD, eating disorders, depression, and suicidality.

I, too, had to learn to speak up as an ally. While I, myself, have been impacted by sexual violence and harassment, I also have incredible privilege. I’m white, cis, straight, economically and educationally privileged, able bodied — you name it. And I use that privilege because people like you are more likely to listen to people like me. So hear me, but recognize those who you have failed to listen to — people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, and all those who are disproportionately affected by violence and underrepresented in our discourse surrounding the issue.

So. My friends. What can you do? Good question.

1. Don’t be a perpetrator.

You don’t get a gold star for this one. This is literally the bare minimum.

Our education system has failed you. You probably never received comprehensive consent education — so let me drop some knowledge.

“No means no” is antiquated. It assumes that it is our responsibility to negate your advances rather than your responsibility to acquire consent. Rather, adhere to what we call “affirmative consent,” which means that only enthusiastic, continuous, conscious, and mutual consent means yes. Coercing someone by persistently asking until they give in, isn’t consent.

This is an extremely simplistic analogy, but bear with me here. If I came up and took $20 dollars out of your hand and walked away, because you never said “no,” that would still be considered theft. To complete our analogy, it’s common sense to assume I would have to ask you for the money first — so why is that so much harder to implement with something as intimate as sex?

Just ask. It’s not hard.

2. Believe survivors.

I hate having to defend this. Believing survivors is one of the most important things you can do. As stated by Sarah Ogden Trotta, a licensed psychotherapist, “We have absolutely nothing to lose by believing a survivor’s words, and a survivor has everything to gain through the experience of feeling trusted and validated. Even if the details seem confusing, we must stand firm in knowing that their account of sexual assault is rooted in truth.”

So do it.

When a survivor comes forward tell them: “I believe you. It’s not your fault. You are not alone.” Ask them what you can do to support them. Follow through.

3. Do something.

There’s no excuse. Google is a thing. There are a ZILLION organizations waiting for you with open arms ready to help you do something. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Practice affirmative consent
  • Educate your friends
  • Check your language
  • Call out comments that normalize sexual violence
  • Condemn homophobia, transphobia, racism, and ableism
  • Learn about “toxic masculinity” and work towards “healthy masculinity”
  • Stop interrupting your female colleagues
  • Advocate for age-appropriate consent education
  • Intervene when you can
  • Stop valuing people solely by their appearance
  • Be intersectional in your approach to addressing violence
  • Learn about Title IX, Title II, Title VI, Title VII, and the Clery Act
  • Support organizations that work in sexual violence prevention and response
  • Stop victim-blaming

End Rape on Campus (EROC) has an amazing resource called the Take Action portal where you can learn about ways you can counter sexual violence. Go there. Learn about resources. Learn about Centering the Margins. Attend the National Vigil for Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault, or organize a sister vigil in your area. Share the links. Make moves.

I want to wake up tomorrow and have every “me too” status met with a status expressing solidarity, support, and belief. More than that, I want allies to commit to living out those sentiments in their daily lives.

Can you hear us?

This piece was also posted on the Huffington Post Contributor Platform.

Colleen Daly is the former Director of Media and Strategic Communications at End Rape on Campus. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she co-founded the non-profit organization Embody Carolina, and went on to get her Master’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications where she conducted research in the Body and Media Lab. She now runs a feminist fight club, called Guerrera, and uses graphic design as a method to address pressing social issues. She is an MMA fighter, Tar Heel, and body positive advocate.