The “Me Too” Movement was originally founded in 2007 by Tarana Burke as a way for women, particularly women of color, to express solidarity, empathy, and a sense of community to sexual assault victims. The motto of the campaign is “Empowerment Through Empathy.” A decade later, these same two words became a hashtag and went viral after Alyssa Milano tweeted it in support of actress Rose McGowan who made allegations of rape against a known-secret Hollywood predator.
As the hashtag moved from one social media platform to another, people came forward in staggering numbers to say they too had survived sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. It was difficult to scroll through a social media feed without seeing it littered in “Me Too”s. But the conversation seemed unsure about something. What right did men and those who aren’t cis women have to speak out about sexual abuse?
Suddenly, people rebuking others for speaking out, particularly male survivors, filled feeds as well. Accusations of men using this opportunity to center the conversation on them, and the need to step down because this conversation was about women, not them, reigned in many different voices. However, this leaves the question; when is the appropriate time for men to speak up about their experiences with sexual assault?
Male sexual assault is highly underreported. It’s estimated that 1 in 71 men have survived sexual assault, but the number is most likely much higher. Although men hold the most social, political, and economic power, depending on other intersections such as race and ability, this doesn’t mean that the gender as a whole is devoid of problems. Men are the minority of reported sexual assault cases, but the resources that women have for dealing with rape and sexual assault are sometimes not there for men. Articles about male sexual assault, particularly by women, are met with comments of disbelief, suggestions on how to avoid rape in the future, and accusations of not being a real man to begin with.
It’s fine to have a conversation about sexual assault as pertaining to women. We all are aware that it’s an issue. But it seems all the conversations about sexual assault pertain to women. As a cis white woman who has suffered childhood sexual abuse, date rape, stranger rape, sexual assault, and now has post-traumatic stress disorder, I am sick of the narrative focusing on women like me as if we are the lilyskinned eternal victims of the universe. There has be room made for men, people of color, non-binary folks, trans people, and many more groups in order to finally conquer rape culture.
Any rape, no matter who survives it, is a tragedy. We need to stop focusing on one overly-exposed part of the problem and acknowledge that sexual assault is a global issue that can affect anyone. There can be conversations specific to women within the fight to end sexual assault, but there needs to be room for male survivors and so many others as well.