10 Things to do instead of feeling shocked about harassment and #MeToo
A LOT of women have been sexually harassed, as many of us realized as we woke up this morning and checked our social media accounts.
Well, for many of us, this wasn’t so much a realization, as an inspiring and depressing confirmation of what we already knew: Women are sexually harassed every fucking day. Nearly 1 in 5 women has experienced an attempted or completed rape (in the U.S.). While the rate of sexual assault has been declining, an (American) person is still sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, 90% of which are women.
And, let’s not forget that, worldwide, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence, either by an intimate partner, or someone else, at least once in their lifetime.
So, what I’m trying to get at is this. Sexual violence and sexual harassment statistics are not new. The fact that so many of your female friends on Facebook are speaking up with #MeToo, should not be shocking to you. The fact that people like Donald Trump, Anthony Weiner, Denny Hastert, Herman Cain, Tim Mahoney, Mel Reynolds, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Cee-Lo Green, Mike Tyson, Roman Polanski, and most recently Harvey Weinstein have been (accused of) sexually harassing and assaulting for years shouldn’t be surprising.
In order to help you move on from your (maybe naïve?) feelings of shock and surprise at the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things you can/should do and feel instead.
1. Believe survivors of sexual harassment and violence.
If a woman is putting herself out there and saying she has been harassed, assaulted, or raped, chances are, she isn’t doing it just for the kicks. Studies have found that the percentage of false accusations of rape are about the same as false accusations of any other crime: 2–8%
2. Call your friends, acquaintances, random dudes at the bar out for harassing.
If you see someone (statistically a dude) being a dick to women, coercing, God-forbid drugging, making rape jokes, advancing on passed out women, catcalling, bullying, making sexual comments or advances at or about female coworkers, or abusing or bullying their girlfriends or wives, then do something. Call them out. Hold them accountable. But DON’T just feel uncomfortable and ignore it.
3. Stop (yourself or your friends from) making demeaning jokes about women and rape.
It’s not funny. I’d say most people don’t think it’s funny. But most people just laugh uncomfortably and hope it stops. That’s not enough. Make it stop. Culture is built on words, so just because you’re not physically hurting someone doesn’t mean you’re not helping build the society that hurts people.
4. Support and vote for laws and bills that make the legal process easier for survivors
Believe it or not, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) isn’t unanimously supported. And out of every 1000 rapes, only 57 perpetrators will even be arrested, and only 6 perpetrators will actually be incarcerated. Our laws and legal system desperately need to be improved for survivors of sexual violence.
5. Support and vote for laws and bills that empower women
Part of lowering sexual harassment and violence rates means changing the culture that propagates them. That means empowering women and changing the way society sees women. Support Title IX, which promotes equality in education. Support the Equal Pay Act, which almost all other countries have passed, and which promotes the fair treatment of women in employment. Push for paid parental (not just maternal) leave in the U.S., which is one of the only countries in the world to not have laws obligating it.
6. Resist responding with “not all men”
Sigh. No one is saying all men harass, assault, and rape women. No one has ever said that. What you’re basically saying is “It wasn’t me so stop bothering me about it.” But you still live in a world where it happens and where many men do actively contribute to this problem. So even if it wasn’t you, you still have a responsibility to, at the very very least, care about it.
7. Wait before responding with “men get raped and harassed too”
More sighs. No one is saying men aren’t the victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault. No one has ever said that. Men have been raped and sexually assaulted at about 1/71 and 1/20, respectively. But right now, we’re talking about women. And rushing to add this comment about men, as a way of silencing talking about women is no good. It doesn’t help anyone.
8. Make some hard decisions about whose movies, music, and comedy you consume.
Stephen Colbert recently talked about how he can’t listen to Bill Cosby anymore, even though he used to be one of his heroes. There is no such thing as separating the person from their work, especially when consuming their work directly supports that person. The reason famous people are able to continue their harassment and assault for so many years is because we let them. The industry lets them. It has to stop somewhere.
9. Use the space you already occupy to call out sexual harassment
This one is directed specifically at men. Please, by all means, call out sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and all sexual violence. Do it. I love hearing it. But make sure that you aren’t trying to take over the conversation. I’m not saying don’t support. I’m just saying that men already occupy a lot of space in this world. Take the space you already have and make it feminist.
10. And, obviously, make ABSOLUTE sure that you are not someone who is propagating sexual harassment and violence.
Well duh. Maybe you have to do some research on what is ok to do and what isn’t. But DO NOT be part of the problem. And do not get your feelings hurt if you find out that you are. Be mature, fix it, and move on.
*I want to make a note that a lot of people who don’t identify as women face sexual harassment every day. I wrote this article for you too. I wrote the word “Women” for many of these points because this issue affects so many countless women, but I want you to know that I see you and hear you and support you and welcome you. I am sorry we don’t have more inclusive language that everyone understands.