Survivors seek solidarity

Anna C.K. Smith // The Torch

After reports regarding dozens of sexual assault charges leveled against film producer and studio executive Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter to reveal that she’s also been sexually violated in the past. She encouraged survivors of sexual assault to tweet “#MeToo” to unite victims. Some Lane students and local advocates are divided over the effect of the movement.

According to Twitter, within 48 hours the hashtag had been tweeted nearly 1 million times, with thousands of others posting on other social media sites such as Facebook and Tumblr.

The #MeToo campaign wasn’t originally created by Milano. It was started 10 years ago by black activist Tarana Burke to bring attention to sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities. According to an interview Burke did with Ebony magazine, it was never intended to be a hashtag.

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke said. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they are not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

Second-year Lane Community College student Lindsay Vaughn who participated in the movement through Facebook took the opportunity as a chance to help other women find the strength to share their experiences.  

“I did participate in the campaign. I was hesitant to do so, but I saw so many women that I look up to posting and it made me feel safe to be vulnerable,” Vaughn said. “I don’t want the attention or pity that comes with saying that you have been victimized in some way. I didn’t view myself as a victim, but as a survivor, who gets to walk other women through what it looks like to survive.”

BB Beltran, Executive Director of Sexual Assault Support Services of Lane County, says that the movement is unable to paint the complete picture.

“I think it’s important to note that many survivors do not have the safety or freedom to identify as a survivor on social media,” Beltran said.

Second-year LCC student Rachel Hammock is a survivor who chose not to participate in the movement.

“I appreciated people speaking up and found it to be inspiring, yet I also found it to be triggering,” Hammack said. “I live with a fellow survivor and we both felt slightly uncomfortable by the movement. Personally, I chose not to participate because I did not want to relive my assault through a platform like Facebook.”

Hammack felt she was left with an existential dilemma. “Should I stand in solidarity at risk of exposing myself or choose not to and remain safe in my online space? I chose the latter,” Hammack said.

Beltran says the doors are always open at SASS for survivors of sexual violence.

“We like to predict and prepare as much as possible with survivors, they can contact our crisis line or come see us in person during business hours.”

SASS has a 24-hour crisis line, (541) 343-7277, as well as drop-in hours from Tuesday to Thursday, between 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 591 W 19th Ave., Eugene, OR.