The most recent sexual harassment and assault scandal centers on Hollywood — but the problem extends far beyond California. Thanks in part to an online Twitter action in which thousands of women tweeted "Me too," the problem is part of a national conversation. If having to tweet and see #MeToo made you angry about the everyday harassment and abuse faced by women, you're not alone. Here's ways you can help, as suggested by experts and organizations who work on these issue every day.
The #MeToo hashtag grew from earlier actions following Rose McGowan's suspension from Twitter. One of the first knee-jerk responses was to boycott the social media service; however, others on Twitter decided that responding to someone being silenced with more silence was not the answer. Following that decision, activists decided to use the #WomenWhoRoar hashtag to speak out on sexual assault and harassmen; #MeToo grew from that.
On Sunday, the hashtag got a big boost when actress Alyssa Milano posted "Me too" on her Twitter profile with an explanation:
If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
As of Monday morning, the tweet has been responded to at least 30,000 times with tens of thousands more retweeting or liking it. Without a doubt, the call for action was heard.
But surely more must be done. The scope of the problem is beyond comprehension: one in three women have been sexually harassed at work, and two-thirds have experienced street harassment. One in six has been raped or experienced an attempted rape. That is unacceptable, and the fact that it makes you mad is legitimate. Here are things you can do, in conjunction with some great organizations, to help end this and support survivors today.
2) Request Or Provide Quality Anti-Harassment Training
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, prevention is the best way to combat harassment in the workplace. One of the ways they suggest doing this is through "providing anti-harassment training to their managers and employees." Does your company offer this? And if so, is it any good?
"What we've found is that a lot of the training is horrible, and it's really difficult for people to relate to." Houser explains. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved. Houser recommends:
Review it yourself, and if your employer is using something ineffective, tell them. Often they're just meeting the bare legal requirements to check the box. Have them invest in something good.
If you're in a position to put it in place a quality training, do so. Otherwise ask your manager to put a program in place proactively, and review it to see if you approve.
3) Make Sure Your Office Has A Way To Anonymously Report
In addition to training, workplaces need to have the right policies in place to stop existing issues. One important way is anonymous reporting mechanism. "If you end up with an employer getting three, four, five complaints about the same employee, they have responsibility to do something," Houser explains.
Not everyone will feel comfortable coming forward personally, and this better protects the victims of harassment and assault.
4) Work To End Street Harassment
Public places should not be risky environments for women — Stop Street Harassment is working to change that. There are lots of actions that you can take, from conducting community surveys to requesting city council hearings on the matter. Even if the workplace becomes safe, you're still going to have to get there every day.
5) Look Out For Others & Intervene
RAINN Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the largest anti-sexual violence organization has a guide online to show how you can help prevent sexual assault. One big way they see is stepping in when you're a bystander to a bad situation. There's lots of ways you can help, depending on your comfort level, from creating a distraction to calling 911.
You can choose the option you find most comfortable — something that you'll actually do. "If someone is harassing your friend, a fake trip and a spilled drink can make you feel good, but it also changes the situation," Houser says. "It gives the person who's the target a chance to leave and changes the dynamic." Other options could be going up and asking the perpetrator for directions so that the target can get away. You can also ask the target directly if they're OK.
7) Always Speak Up As An Ally
According to Terri Poore, policy director for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, that means speaking up whenever you "see something that's not OK or hear something that's not OK."
We all have a role to play in ending rape culture, and that starts by taking courage and speaking up, just as we see survivors do with the "Me too." We can't expect this to be on the backs of survivors anymore.
8) Support & Empower Your Local Rape Crisis Center
Local rape crisis centers provide a lot of prevention programming in addition to direct services to women, Houser explains. As an example, they go into schools to teach sexual violence prevention.
Both aspects are vitally necessary to help, and so make sure to donate money and time to the one in your community — find the one nearest to you here.
As Houser explains:
We really need funds to support the prevention and education work that needs to happen in communities to teach parents and individuals, how do you raise a culture of respect in your community. Rape Crisis Centers are run by women, they believe women.
9) Have Your Organization Host A Prevention Training
If you've never had a prevention training, it's likely that other people in your circle haven't either. If you're involved in an organization, religious group, or a school, ask the leaders to host a training. Contact the local rape crisis center to request one.
"Invite them in," Houser advises. "Invite them into your church, kids' sports clubs. People are affiliated with all different kinds of institutions. Let them know this is important to you, and you want them to host a prevention training."
10) Buy Clothes For Survivors
For women who decided to seek medical attention or report their sexual assault, there's a very real need for clothing. The ones that they were wearing prior are tested for DNA, and without projects like the Grateful Garment, they would be sent home in hospital gowns. Consider donating money or buying new clothes to support the charity's mission to send every woman home in a complete outfit with toiletries and food.
11) Study Up On Title IX
You've probably read about Title IX lately, because the Trump Administration's Education Department has reworked the rules that protected sexual assault victims on college campuses. Under Trump, the rules are going to favor the alleged perpetrators more than before.
But that doesn't mean you're not protected. If you're in school, know what the administrators must do to protect you from a hostile educational environment.
12) Contact Congress
Let Congress know that they need to act to prevent the Trump Administration's rollbacks on sexual assault rules implemented through Title IX. Call your senators and representative, and tell them that they need to act now.
While you have them on the phone, there's another very important policy to ask about: Congress is setting the budget for 2018 at the moment, and a program housed at the Centers for Disease Control, the Rape Prevention and Education Program is up for a budget increase. Currently the Senate has planned to raise its funding by $5 million, and Poore explained it's important that the House also do so.
Poore explains why the program is so important:
One of the ways to best make change around this issue is to start young. To really talk about sexual violence prevention so that young people understand consent, people know where to get help, and so that we can bring the issue out of the shadows. That program goes out to all the states and what funds many rape crisis centers to go into high schools and youth programs. [It] teach[es] young people from an early age how to appropriately and carefully say, "Hey, what you're doing is not OK."
13) Reassess Your Own Sexual Behavior
Consider taking a training or reading the online resources of an organization like The Consensual Project. Make sure that you're leaving your partner or partners time to think about what they want and make those wishes known. Work on better engaging with consent in your day-to-day life.
14) Get Involved Locally
Anti-sexual assault awareness groups like No More have local affiliates and chapters throughout the country. Find one near you.
Also focus attention on local and state politics — even the school board. Funding and implementation of sexual violence prevention programs is key.
16) Stay Engaged
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, this is a remarkable time for making change on the issue. Continue to stay engaged in this conversation by using social media campaigns like #MeToo and considering some of the prior actions.
In a press release, the NSVRC called the Weinstein case "a critical moment," elaborating further:
We are encouraged that so many survivors, many of whom have remained silent for years or decades, feel comfortable enough now to speak publicly. With America focused on this very important issue, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve understanding and change behaviors.
Houser says that #MeToo as a response is great.
The campaign is an eye-opener, the timing is great, and it is demonstrating what a widespread, serious problem sexual violence is across the spectrum. I don't think everyone has said, "It's never been me." It's to a person. If you're a woman over the age of 11 in America, something happened.
These actions can truly make a difference in changing the wider culture. Houser explains what's at stake here is "the standard of behavior that we expect from each other every single day."
You can help shape it. Take that #MeToo anger and put it to good use.