Open Letter to Adherents of #MeToo
Please Note: this article discusses topics of sexual assault and rape culture.
The dawn of the #MeToo movement has catapulted the discussion about sexual assault into common discourse. Although social media is far from a perfect platform, sexual assault survivors have demanded the space to articulate their experiences through the movement. These voices have been paramount in breaking down the foundations of rape culture and proving the pervasiveness of sexual assault. Longstanding rape culture encourages victim-blaming and disbelief, therefore the voices and support of allies have also been absolutely necessary to the success of the movement. Allies support survivors through belief and sensitivity to uplift them so that others may hear their stories. They also support the cause by promoting proper knowledge of consent and speaking up to break down rape culture in order to explicitly send the message that sexual assault, rape culture, and predators are no longer secure.
Universities and colleges are environments where many people choose to explore their sexuality. It is necessary for this exploring to be under the circumstances of safety and proper knowledge of consent. Students who choose to refrain from this prevailing sphere of university life are still crucial actors in consent because staying silent in the face of assault not only sustains improper beliefs about consent, but also subjects potential victims to assault by inhibiting the education of consent among peers. Students ought to acknowledge the power of their voices. Furthermore, it is necessary to acknowledge and respect that consent can be denied explicitly as well as implicitly (intoxication, lack of enthusiasm, etc.). Lack of attention to implicit denial of consent can lead to unintentional assault. Therefore it is important to ask explicitly for consent when the answer is hazy. Moreover the denial of consent does not open the door to convincing. Post-secondary students contribute to the practice of proper consent by reserving their own right to consent, always asking for consent and being aware of it, as well as using their voices to speak up against those who disrespect the parameters of consent or, do not understand them.
Rape culture plays a colossal role in how assault is viewed, and is preserved through lack of attention, misogynistic language, and stereotypes. Discussions about sexual assault and rape culture must be treated with respect and the desire to educate. Sexism is especially threatening because it plays a role in the everyday lives of women. Sexist or misogynistic behaviour includes (but is not limited to) catcalls, sexist “jokes,” comments that implicitly attack women, stereotypes of women, and undermining women’s abilities. It is crucial these comments be rejected by the public because they massively contribute to rape culture. Additionally, it is important to recognize that sexual assault is not limited to gender. Although women are statistically much more vulnerable, all genders are affected by rape culture and are vulnerable to sexual assault. Inclusivity and respect are critical.
Honouring victims is one of the central components of the movement and can be done in a multitude of ways. First, believe victims. Be sensitive to their trauma and the courage it takes to share their stories. Respect those who choose not to speak out, for their reasons are just as valid. Respect their right to consent to the discussion and never mention a survivor's experience without their permission; let them speak of it themselves. The #MeToo movement propelled the discussion about sexual assault into daily affairs and it is our duty to carry it through. We must keep the conversation open to let predators know that they are no longer safe in our society. Our voices, victims or not, matter. We will accomplish the movement’s objective by voting, keeping the conversation going about proper consent, believing and supporting survivors, as well as speaking up against rape culture.