Social media in the time of the #MeToo movement has become a platform for people from all walks of life to share their experiences of sexual harassment. It can be as simple as talking about the men who catcall in the streets, or as personal as stories of assault. There are no rules about what to post, or how to post it.
Unfortunately, that’s not a sentiment that everyone stands by. Some people feel that these stories shouldn’t be allowed to come out without evidence. That these stories do a lot of harm to the alleged perpetrators. That maybe everyone would be better off if things had stayed silent.
These arguments have merit, I will admit that. Due process is certainly a value we have to uphold in a civilized society and false accusations have their special place in hell. But the fact is, a number of different studies have already proven that the number of rape accusations which turn out to be false is only 2-10%.
The logic behind this small number is the reality that making an accusation of sexual harassment is a heavy burden. You are put in the spotlight and forcibly examined by any interested member of the audience. Your story is questioned time and time again. Your personhood is attacked and you are vilified. Faking an experience of sexual harassment just isn’t worth this pain.
— Olivia Munn (@oliviamunn) December 18, 2018
So why are we still unwilling to accept the individuals that come forward with their stories? It’s so easy to assume that people do this for attention, or that it’s some part of a petty revenge scheme. We wave it away by saying that if it was true, they would have brought it to the police. That they only want the people of Twitter and Facebook to play judge, jury, and executioner.
Consider that we misunderstand their motive. That when they bare their souls for all the digital world to see, the pain of the perpetrator was the last thing on their mind. That the point of sharing their story was just that — to share. Because it helps them get away from the suffocation that being inside their bodies forces by letting the words run free.
We forget that the #MeToo movement wasn’t founded as a means to exact justice. Rather, it was a movement to create safe spaces for women. It was to allow women a platform to tell their stories and have people believe in them. The act of expressing is therapeutic in itself. The act of telling the story is meant to bring closure. Isn’t it more likely for victims of sexual harassment to share their stories without any agenda other than self-preservation?
Before #MeToo, there was no place to do this. There was no way for women to come forward and simply be heard. The only option victims had was walled off by high barriers: the justice system. Sure, there were alternatives to criminal lawsuits like therapists or family support, but doing so promoted the idea that they should deal with it in private. That these experiences were mainly their cross to carry and, subsequently, their fault.
The ability to come out with the stories is the ability to say, “I am not in the wrong.” It is the knowledge that they deserved better; that they are still good people. The sum of who they are is not reliant on what they have experienced, so let them. Let them speak up, on social media and beyond, if speaking up means changing the narrative from “sexual harrassment survivor” to this: brave and fighting.
What are your opinions on this issue? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
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