Following the mile-long list of allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, the social media campaign #MeToo went viral two weeks ago. I’m sure that it is one that you have seen, as people have been using #MeToo to indicate that they have been the victim of sexual assault or harassment.
This movement is not limited to the United States. According to CNN and CBS News, the hashtag has reached 85 countries and can be found across multiple languages: #QuellaVoltaChe in Italian, #BalanceTonPorc in French and #YoTambién in Spanish.
However, it is also key to highlight that this is not the first time such a movement on social media has emerged — in 2012, the hashtag was #EverydaySexism. In 2014, it was #YouOKSis, #YesAllWomen and #BeenRapedNeverReported.
But what is it about #MeToo that will make the 1.7 million tweets have a lasting effect? How can we make the feelings of solidarity and empathy last?
This is a game of high stakes and a feeling that saves lives. Thirty-three percent of women who are raped consider suicide and they are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide than people who have not experienced violence in this capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented suicide as the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34 in 2015, and the numbers have been on the rise since.
Kevin Hines, one of 36 survivors who attempted suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge, recently spoke at Binghamton University. At the event, Hines stated that if there had been one person who smiled at him that day or asked him if he was OK, he would have reconsidered. While we are the only ones accountable for our own actions, the feeling of being supported and valued is powerful — something that many survivors of sexual assault are missing.
In order to keep the awareness raised by #MeToo at the forefront of people’s minds, there needs to be more action accompanying it. An American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds — it’s hard to ignore when you learn that someone you know has been the victim of such a crime.
What we don’t know now is who the attackers are. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 344 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. And out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault that are reported, 994 perpetrators walk.
Without action behind #MeToo, we place a limit on the support given to survivors. We can say that we believe them, but we also need to be willing to advocate for them, even when they are fearful of what could result.
We need to push for stricter guidelines for the Sex Offender Registry, urge Title IX coordinators to consider the prevalence of unreported cases, force our justice system to pay attention by writing to representatives and volunteer at crisis helplines like the High Hopes Helpline on our own campus. We are not powerless.
Kara Bilello is a junior double-majoring in English and Spanish.