Tips for safe participation in the #MeToo movement
Is the #MeToo movement a good thing?
Without a doubt, giving survivors of sexual violence a voice and shining a light on the issue of sexual assault and sexual abuse is a positive step towards healing and bringing about much needed cultural change.
Surviving sexual trauma can be an isolating experience, particularly given that many people avoid talking about their victimisation often due to shame, misplaced self-blame or post-traumatic avoidance behaviours. Mainstream conversations about sexual violence have the potential to shift blame and lift shame and in doing so, contribute to the de-stigmatisation of survivors. When other survivors come forward and share their trauma, it may inspire and provide safety for others to also reveal a personal history of abuse. Joining with fellow survivors and receiving validation and empathy from others, can provide a corrective and empowering experience for those with a history of sexual trauma.
Should I participate in the #MeToo movement?
This said, I am not suggesting that participation in, or exposure to, the #MeToo movement is right for everyone. It is highly likely that exposure to the stories of sexual violence shared by others may be triggering for survivors and could potentially contribute to the exacerbation of trauma symptoms. Inappropriate responses and victim blaming by friends and strangers alike, can potentially leave survivors feeling further disempowered and re-traumatised.
Choosing to engage or not engage in #MeToo?
It is important for survivors to remember that they have a choice whether to participate in the #MeToo movement or not. No one is obligated to share their personal history of sexual violence or harassment, irrespective of how much they believe in and are supportive of the cause. If exposure to stories shared by other survivors of sexual assault or abuse is proving triggering, then the best choice may be to limit contact with social media or disengage completely.
The take home message is, participation in, and exposure to the #MeToo movement is optional and should only be undertaken by those survivors who feel resourced and supported enough to participate.
Choose your forum
I would encourage survivors choosing to engage in the #MeToo movement to select an online forum that supports safe participation. This might initially be a closely monitored and supportive closed group or within the confines of trusted Facebook family and friends. Equally important, is choosing an appropriate level of engagement that is right for you.
Choose your level of participation
Those wishing to engage with and support other survivors might choose low-level participation by acknowledging #MeToo status disclosures with the hashtag #NoMore, by ‘liking’ posts or sharing relatable posts without comment.
Higher-level participation might include sharing with commentary without an over-sharing of one’s personal experiences. If stable and resourced, survivors may choose active participation; sharing their #Metoo status
and/or engaging in conversations about sexual assault and abuse within the wider on-line community. Or …. you can avoid it altogether.
Ultimately, whatever level of engagement
you choose, it is important to pay attention to how you are feeling as you do so. If you are struggling, it may be necessary to exercise additional self-care and seek
professional support if required.
January 18, 2018