This past October, there was a movement across social media used to, according to Wikipedia, “demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.” There were lots of posts with the hashtag “MeToo” added, sometimes just simply with the hashtag….sometimes with more of their story of being assaulted or harassed. If you have any sort of presence on social media, you likely saw it and were aware of it. I had a hesitation when it showed up and I am still not sure what was going on within me.
Here are some of my thoughts:
- I work with a lot of clients that are dealing with these kinds of experiences. When you do trauma counseling, of course you are going to know that there is sexual assault and harassment. And I know that I was hyper aware of my clients who would likely be seeing the hashtags and feel triggered, especially when many were sharing some details about their experience. Also, I was wondering if my clients would feel they need to post publicly about their experiences. If they aren’t ready to tell the world, they shouldn’t feel pressured to post it on social media. I am a believer that the shame they often feel does not belong to them. Still, they don’t need to feel pressured to share either. I know I did hear some stories from clients regarding what seeing some of their friends and family posting with the hashtag and having feelings about this. I also heard some who bravely posted and felt they shocked some of their friends and family but also felt like it was helpful to build awareness….and to encourage others to speak up who had not spoken up.
- While I did hold the space for some of my clients processing back in October, I was also hyper aware of those who had experienced sexual assault and harassment but may not have a supportive environment to process their thoughts and feelings if they were triggered or felt pressured to post their own hashtag prematurely.
- Similarly, I remember back in college exploring the ethics of sharing “success stories” to build awareness of non-profit agencies and/or for fundraising. Awareness and fundraising are often part of the furthering the cause. The idea of using a success story to build awareness and/or ask for donations gets pretty grey. We don’t want to exploit clients receiving help. Sometimes these “case studies” become sensationalized. I think I am afraid the hashtag campaign may have felt a little sensationalized. I think I am afraid that some may have felt pressured to exploit themselves for the sensationalism. Telling our story is a personal decision and no one need do it before they are ready.
- I think my hesitation may have been due to what I perceived of possible “watering down” of the terms. I don’t want to minimize anyone’s experience. I think if we aren’t careful, some may want to feel a part of the movement and inadvertently minimize the experiences by putting them all in the same category. This area is complicated, I confess. I almost feel like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. Don’t minimize, don’t compare….but not all experiences are the same. I don’t even want to give an example of something that is clearly different from another.
What else could be going on with me? I am still sorting it out. I felt like enough time has passed that it is time to talk about my somewhat visceral reaction to the #MeToo campaign. The intention behind it resonates for real. Let’s speak out against these atrocities. Let’s unite together. Let’s make it abundantly clear that these things are not OKAY and we have a voice. But then I pause. Still….
Maybe sorting it out is what I need to keep doing Life is complicated, as is trauma. Figuring out why I had a pause when the hashtag was trending is also complicated. Maybe I have my own baggage showing up, as well as my protective instincts kicking in for my clients and the folks out there like them. All I know is that I haven’t figured it out completely and maybe I won’t. Things are emerging as I typed this, but I know I will continue to develop my thoughts and ideas about this.