Last October, influential hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was exposed and called out by women who accused him of sexually harassing them. Weinstein was phased out of his company and labeled as a sexual predator.
This continued as more men and women called out men in authority who had committed these acts. Sexual assault was seen everywhere in the public eye, and became a fireable offense to those who perpetrated it.
Actress Alyssa Milano, one of the Weinstein accusers, called for action and encouraged women to share their experiences of sexual assault with the hashtag MeToo.
Since then, the actions of these women have led to several abusers being called out and facing consequences for their actions, such as Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roy Moore and Charlie Rose, among others.
On April 18, Sinclair made their own statement on the issue during Green Dot Week. It included information on how to catch warning signs of a violent power based act (called a Red Dot) will take place, and ways to stop them from happening.
As part of this event Amanda Hayden, Associate Professor of Religion, Humanities and Philosophy, spoke at a Sinclair Talks event on her own experience with this kind of violence in a subdued, safe and comforting environment, with no recording taking place.
While Hayden participated in awareness events such as table discussions and administering Green Dot training, she eventually gained inspiration to speak to a crowd and tell her personal story.
“After my 3rd daughter was born, I was starting to have this feeling… This constant tugging telling me ‘you need to tell this story,’” Hayden said. “I didn’t know what form it would take but it told me I was going to do something to help other survivors who’ve been through this.”
Hayden appreciated the conduct and supportiveness of the audience, and members who came after the speech to commend and empathize with her experience.
“Those who were there were there because they wanted to be there,” Hayden said. “It was purely a talk for survivors, people who support survivors and people who want to know about this movement.”
Hayden then noted that MeToo isn’t a fad, as it has existed for over a decade.
“Most of us are familiar with it [#MeToo] because of the social media push last fall, and that was big. But that wasn’t where it started. It actually started 12 years ago with Tarana Burke.”
Burke was a survivor who works with young girls who survived sexual abuse cases. She started telling survivors “me too” as way to emphasize with them, as part of her philosophy called empowerment through empathy, which emphasized strength in numbers.
One thing Hayden stressed for Sinclair students was the importance of utilizing the several resources available to help survivors, such as the Green Dot training, Title IX, Student Affairs and Counseling Services.
She also mentioned the importance of having empathy and compassion for victims and understanding their many reasons women may not report their assault cases immediately.
“One thing I think is really important to bring up is that so many people will immediately begin to be on the defense and question the timing. They’ll question someone on their memory, or their complicity,” Hayden said.
“There’s legitimate reasons why women don’t come forward,” she said. “They might have children they’re trying to protect, they might just be trying to live and not be killed by somebody. Let alone having to relive that experience, because it’s horrible, it’s traumatic, and most women aren’t going to want to relive that and go back there.”
“If we can really stop with this shame and blame and actually talk and be authentic about it and upfront and realize that there’s a reason why women stay silent [we’ll be better off],” Hayden said.
Following the MeToo movement, the effects are still being seen today, with a cavalcade of powerful abusers facing consequences for the actions. The Weinstein Company is facing bankruptcy and has cancelled all non-disclosure agreements related to the Weinstein case.
On Thursday April 26, Bill Cosby was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at his home in 2004. Cosby had been under fire since 2014 when it was revealed he had been drugging and raping women for several years. This was the first major prosecution since the movement started.
Hayden then reflected on the movement as a whole:
“We’re in a historical moment, this is third wave feminism,” she said. “Survivors knew this was happening, but what MeToo did was shine this global spotlight on the magnitude and made survivors realize they’re not alone,” Hayden said. “It’s helped survivors to start to be heard.”