Friday, November 24th, 2017

Letter from the Editor: You too?

Posted on October 23, 2017 in News
By Sarah Tewksbury

Sarah Tewksbury

Social media and the news are currently overflowing with testimonials from individuals who have been affected by sexual harassment or sexual assault. In 2006, activist Tarana Burke used the phrase “me too” to encourage females around the world, specifically women of color, to be conscious that they were not alone in their struggles with traumatic incidents. Burke wanted to empower and inspire women through empathetic understanding. Following the exodus of celebrities who shared their negative connections with Harvey Weinstein, people all over the world began using the hashtag, “me too,” to highlight their own experiences.

When I first saw the sheer number of people I am connected to on Facebook posting statuses about this topic, I felt so many emotions. While I’m certainly aware of the considerable numbers of of individuals who experience sexual trauma, there was a grave feeling that washed over me as I saw people I know personally and very well share their stories. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. RAINN also reports that there are an average of 321,500 survivors of rape and sexual assault every single year in America.

Before the explosion of the words “me too” on social media sites, the pure statistic RAINN released that states that one in six American women will be survivors of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime is serious cause for concern. However, once very familiar faces were equated to the statistical evidence, I realized how close to home the problem really is.

All humans are susceptible to sexual violence, regardless of any aspect of their personal identification. My Facebook newsfeed was full of girls and women sharing simply the two words, a sentence, the sexaul assault hotline phone number (which in Maine is 1-800-871-7741), or longer anecdotes of their exposure to trauma. I remember reading about struggles in the workplace, on the street, in their own homes, and thinking, is there anywhere we are safe?

Not everyone knows the support that will be granted to them until they start talking about their experiences. Saying “me too” on social media is one way that shows one another that we are not alone in this struggle. There is a silent and underground support system that will not fail you if you need it. In light of the recent explosion of courageous individuals sharing their stories, here is my advice to you.

Call the hotlines. They’ll answer and they’ll let you talk to them. Tell your friends, tell your mama, tell someone you trust, just tell someone. The very, very last thing I ever want to do is to be work for someone, to bother them. I want to be the helper and help everyone else. Perhaps some of you reading this feel a similar way, but now, in this moment, I want your help. I’m asking for help from you. Please keep listening to each other. Keep telling each other. Don’t let this week long fad of a hashtag fade to the background because change is will not be affected through one post. It is a huge, courageous start.

I call it courageous because I understand the inability to type the words “me too” and mean them in a very serious way. When I first saw the multitude of posts, many might I add, from fellow USM students, I wanted to scream and run out and help every last person writing a post. While I cannot do that, what I can do is to be there for any and all individuals affected by sexual violence, harassment or assault.

I realize that I say this often, but we are all just humans walking around the world together for a short period of time, living by our man made rules. Let us be kind and care for each other in the face of uncertainty, trauma and violence. Please know that you always have an ear with the editor of the Free Press.