Trigger warning: sexual assault.
After Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford when they were in high school, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Ford and ignited the #WhyIDidn’tReport movement.
In a tweet, President Trump questioned why Ford had not come forward with the allegations earlier.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Following this tweet, survivors of sexual assault and rape flooded the internet with personal accounts and reasons for why they did not report sooner, or at all. Many recounted the trauma they experienced and the difficulty of prosecuting.
#WhyIDidn’tReport rose as a nationwide movement roughly one year after the global social media surge of #MeToo.
Looking Back at #MeToo and #TimesUp
One year ago, the global #MeToo movement amplified voices of sexual assault and rape survivors. The movement began when actress Alyssa Milano used the hashtag on Twitter in an effort to give survivors a voice.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Milano’s tweet came in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The notion of ‘Me Too,’ however, began in 2006, before the dawn of hashtags. Activist and founder of Just Be Inc., Tarana Burke, started the movement centered around people of color in solidarity with other survivors.
#MeToo brought the conversation about sexual assault into the purview of the public eye. The “Silence Breakers,” including Burke, who came forward and said #MeToo were named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2017.
In December 2017, following #MeToo, #TimesUp circulated the internet. The related movement was started by more than 1,000 women in the entertainment industry who collectively published a letter in The New York Times, creating an initiative to stop sexual harassment in the workplace in Hollywood and blue-collar jobs.
The initiative included the establishment of a legal defense fund backed by $13 million to call for more women in leadership positions and assistance for survivors of sexual assault and harassment across all industries.
In January 2018, many actresses, actors and attendees wore all black to The Golden Globes in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement.
The Local Evolution of #MeToo
The genesis of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #WhyIDidn’tReport sent ripples that reached San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly.
The Local Impact of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #WhyIDidntReport
Since the #MeToo movement, RISE (Rise. Inspire. Support. Empower.) has seen a 322 percent increase in calls to its sexual assault crisis hotline and an increase in need for their services, according to RISE Executive Director Jennifer Adams.
“The shift that I’m hoping we can start seeing is one from awareness to prevention,” Adams said. I’ve been in this movement for 20 years and #MeToo has really helped take care of that, now people know that it’s a problem.”
Adams also hoped there can be a shift from focusing on how women and girls can protect themselves to focusing on the notion that sexual assault and harassment are unacceptable.
She considered San Luis Obispo a “community of first adopters” and said she believed the city can be a leader in the prevention of sexual violence.
Women’s March Organizer Dawn Addis said the Women’s March has served as a catalyst to help people in San Luis Obispo get involved amidst the era of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #WhyIDidntReport. She said sexual assault awareness is among the various things the Women’s March fights for.
“The mission hasn’t changed. The mission has always been to fight for a more positive and just future. What has evolved is that we’re more resolute than ever,” Addis said.
Political science senior Katie Ettl was a part of the March Against Rape Culture and is the vice president of Triota, the feminist activism community and Women’s and Gender Studies society.
In the midst of #MeToo and #TimesUp, Ettl said she constantly heard stories through the media and by word of mouth about people who had been sexually assaulted at Cal Poly. She said it is essential that, moving forward, these movements reflect the voices that are most oppressed, despite San Luis Obispo’s demographic lacking diversity.
“As we can see with Brett Kavanaugh, as long as there are activists and survivors sharing their stories, we’re helping people to be less afraid. In these movements and in our present time, survivors and their allies are uniting; so no one has to feel alone or ashamed about their story,” Ettl said.