The #MeToo movement has helped survivors all over the world step forward and talk about their experiences of sexual violence and harassment. Social activist Tarana Burke created the phrase in 2006 to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who have experienced abuse. A few celebrity retweets later and #MeToo spread across social media platforms and landed on the covers of magazines. We saw friends, family members, strangers, and neighbors talk about their experiences, share others’ stories, and become stronger for speaking up.
Then, a few months ago, we heard people say, “I’m tired of this #MeToo thing. There can’t be that many sexual assaults. Enough already!”
A lifetime of silence. A brief, few months of openness, and people are saying, “Enough already”?
This is why we do our work. We know that survivors deserve to be heard. We know we must be willing to hear them, to give them space to tell their stories, to listen. To believe.
Society silences survivors in many ways. We call victims names. We drag their pasts into the conversation as evidence they can’t be telling the truth. We call them liars, frauds, wannabe celebrities, as if being a victim of sexual violence is a way to shoot to fame and fortune.
We also give perpetrators a pass when we know them, or when they’re good athletes or well-loved coaches, or clean-cut professionals. We want rapists to look like Charles Manson—scary, crazy and easy to spot. When they look like you, or me, or our favorite relative, then we have a harder time wrapping our heads around the possibility that they are guilty of their crime.
Check out the comments on social media when a sexual violence case is reported. We have some wonderful, supportive people in our Panhandle who are quick to write words of encouragement to the victim in the article, who understand that other victims might be reading their words and finding comfort.
We also see a lot of victim blaming. People who question the victim’s morals, who blame the victim for the assault, who say vicious things about the survivor without regard for anyone else reading their words.
We can do better. We need to. We have to if we want to end sexual violence in our Panhandle. Sexual violence isn’t an inevitable part of life. We don’t have to buy into victim blaming comments like “why was she out that late?” or “maybe she shouldn’t have gotten that drunk” or “that’s what happens when these little girls act like grownups” or “look what she was wearing.”
The DOVES Program serves survivors from all walks of life. All genders. All races. All sexual orientations. We understand that past sexual trauma can affect someone’s life, health, parenting, and emotional well-being today. We want survivors reading this letter to know that they aren’t alone, they didn’t deserve what happened to them, and we are here to listen when they’re ready to talk. Our help-line (866-95-DOVES) is available 24-hours a day so survivors can call to talk when it’s right for them. Information can also be found on our website at www.DOVESProgram.com.
According to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, 2 out of 3 rapes go unreported. That means for every one person who braves public opinion, braves the justice system, braves exposure, there are two more who haven’t yet felt safe enough to tell someone about their assault. Let’s change this. Let’s change the way we talk about survivors and encourage people to come forward to tell their story. Let’s pledge to be brave enough to listen without judgement.
Let’s work together to support survivors and end sexual violence for good.
The DOVES Program Staff and Board of Directors