#MeToo at RWU

Kaylee Pugliese, Photo Manager

Circling the realm of social media are the movements #MeToo and #TimesUp regarding sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. As soon as the allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein went viral in October, women everywhere broadcasted their voice to share their experiences with sexual mistreatment in order to let others know that they are not alone.

Long time social activist Turana Burke founded the movement; however, it went viral after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted to encourage women to join together to magnify the issue.

Burke will be speaking in the Rec Center at Roger Williams on Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. To gain better understanding of how this international movement brought so many women together, I encourage all students and faculty members to attend her speech and participate in dialogue with Burke.

Burke founded MeToo in 2006 on MySpace to promote “empowerment through empathy”  with women of color who had experienced sexual harassment. Burke was in the process of creating a documentary titled “Me Too,” which was inspired by a 13 year old girl who confided in Burke that she had been sexually assaulted. Burke wishes she had responded, ever so simply, with “Me, too.”

Fast forward to 2017. Milano posted a tweet stating, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

From there, tens of thousands of people tweeted #MeToo, sparking the revolution. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Ellen Degeneres, Hilarie Burton, Jennifer Lawrence, Gabby Douglas, James Van Der Beek, and Gabrielle Union all joined in.

The TimesUp movement also recently sparked a flame in support of MeToo. This initiative works to help fight against sexual harassment in the workplace by raising funds for those who cannot afford legal help, beginning with millions of dollars. At the Grammy Awards, singer and actress Janelle Monáe gave a power introduction for Kesha while stating that time is up on those who try and silence those who want to tell their story.

Your friends, classmates, colleagues, and professors, all may have participated in the movement as well. The truth is, sexual assault and harassment happens everywhere to more people than we would think. According to the RWU Annual Safety report, there were 11 reports for sexual misconduct in the 2016 academic year. These reports include rape and fondling, or nonconsensual sexual contact. This statistic, of course, does not tally the number of sexual assaults that are not reported. The statistics for 2017 will not be publicly available until October of 2018.

When a student goes to report an incident, they meet with one of the Title IX faculty members. They are there to encourage students to choose their path of action, whether that is visiting the counseling center or going through the legal conduct process.

RWU has a policy which gives students amnesty if there was underage alcohol consumption within the situation. Title IX Coordinator Jen Stanley states, “We don’t want alcohol use to be a barrier for someone when reporting an incident of sexual misconduct.”

Your voice will not be censored or ignored and no one can tell you that your story does not matter. It is up to us to break the silence. Time is up and we must stand together. We must question everything and like Janelle Monáe stated in her Grammy speech, “We come in peace, but we mean business.”

If you or anyone you know has gone through a situation of assault or harassment, please understand that you are not alone.