The #metoo movement is trending on various forms of social media. The intention of the hashtag is to raise awareness that sexual assault affects a wide group of people and to show victims that they are not alone. It’s an online support system.
#metoo began on MySpace in 2006. It was revived last month when actress Alyssa Milano encouraged victims to share the hashtag after multiple accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced. This sparked the participation of many other celebrities which caused the hashtag to go viral.
Sexual assault awareness tends to spotlight celebrities, but the use of that hashtag also shines a light on the fact that sexual assault happens to students right here at Northview.
Two students agreed to participate in this article, but to protect their privacy, their names have been changed.
Lucy was in elementary school when she was sexually assaulted by a classmate. She had been playing with friends at recess for a length of time when they started to touch her constantly.
“At first I thought it was definitely my fault because I allowed them to play with me,” Lucy said. “They thought it was a game but I didn’t like the game anymore.”
The situation persisted for a period of time until Lucy became so uncomfortable that she knew she had to tell someone.
“Once everyone realized what was happening they were moved from my school,” Lucy said.
Julie was harassed by her stepbrother at a young age.
“I remember this car ride, he literally put his hand down my pants and grabbed my butt,” Julie said. “He was laughing about it and I didn’t know what to do.”
Abuse like this occurred on multiple occasions. He would reach behind her and slap her to the point that Julie would instinctively turn her back away from him whenever he walked in the room.
She told her parents, who then spoke to the boy about his behavior.
“He was a kid too, but still that’s not right,” Julie said.
When Julie was older she was abused by a boyfriend. Their relationship appeared to be healthy and mutually respectful until he forcibly touched her and expected her to return the favor. The boyfriend wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer so Julie kicked him out.
Sexual assault does not define a person. It can happen to anyone, by anyone, at any point in time.
The bottom line is: No means no.
“Consent isn’t a verbal ‘yes’ all the time and not giving consent isn’t always a verbal ‘no’,” Julie said.
Consent in any situation is a necessity. Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault, it’s the attacker’s. If you can’t tell whether someone is consenting or not, stop.
To victims who might read this Lucy said, “If you’re still thinking about [an experience of sexual assault] and it’s still taking over your life, go seek a counselor or therapy because talking about it was the best thing I did.”
Want to read more? Youth Radio podcast: http://youthradio.org/journalism/health/teen-voices-on-metoo/