Anyone who has spent time on social media the past few days has probably noticed the hashtag #metoo pop up countless times in their various content feeds.
The online campaign is a reaction to allegations of sexual abuse against prolific Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Originally credited to actor Alyssa Milano, the #metoo movement is a way for victims of sexual abuse of any kind to band together and document what has long been a worldwide crisis.
Milano shared a note from a friend on her Twitter on October 17 that read, “If all women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused wrote 'me too' as a status, we might give people the sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Close to 40,000 people had replied to Milano with their own "me too" within 24 hours and the accompanying hashtag has taken over social media feeds around the world ever since.
According to various national studies, approximately one in four Canadian women are sexually assaulted during their lifetime and for every 100 incidents of sexual assault, fewer than 10 are reported to police.
This doesn't even address other forms of sexual abuse, such as workplace and street harassment, stalking and unsolicited sexual advances online. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these incidents of sexual abuse toward women are perpetrated by men.
Taking into account this kind of sexual-predator behaviour, one could argue that every woman has, at some point in her life, experienced some form of sexual abuse.
Research also suggests that up to 20 per cent of all males will experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime; most of those cases are also perpetrated by men.
It is no wonder the words “me too” have gone viral over the past few days. This is our reality, and has been for a long time.
Unfortunately, the #metoo hashtag will fade away slowly like all viral campaigns eventually do. Because of this, it is imperative that we use the momentum gained on social media and apply it to our everyday interactions.
Men, stop abusing women, and if you are an abuser yourself, seek help in order to stop the cycle. Victims of sexual abuse, continue to speak out against your abusers and find strength from those who have experienced harm themselves. Allies, help your friends and combat behaviour that you know is intrinsically wrong.
The rallying cry of #metoo can be a springboard to overpower sexual abuse if we all work together to fight against it.
Jason Schreurs, publisher/editor