A social media firestorm erupted after numerous celebrities ferociously and fiercely came forward to report that the now notorious Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted them.
This weekend all across social media platforms many of us simply posted #MeToo in a show of support to all victims of sexual harassment and assault. For many, it was also a stark statement that they too were victims.
Many are feeling angry about our “boys will be boys” mentality. The most profound thing is that, sadly, we are not surprised by Harvey Weinstein’s behavior. Many of us have “Harveys” in our past and unfortunately reporting the abuse is usually not an option – at least not if you want to stay employed.
#MeToo is a call-to-action. It takes great courage to come forward and bring this type of behavior out into the open. When a victim tells his or her story, the most powerful thing you can do is to simply state “I believe you.”
So many people believe the charges that we are seeing near universal demand for change in our attitudes and laws regarding sexual harassment is building.
May Rico is the Executive Director of Haven – a regional agency based in Modesto that provides services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.
“When the very first response we make to a survivor of sexual abuse, harassment, or exploitation is ‘I believe you,’ we are saying so much more than just those three words,” said Rico. “We are taking away the perpetrator’s greatest weapon. We are lifting the agonizing weight of fear and anxiety this person carried before trusting us with their story.
“We are telling the survivor we value them, and their story, and that we are willing to stand in the darkness with them and help them find the light again.”
Cristal Baez, Haven’s Behaviorial Health Services and domestic violence program manager, put it like this: “Those three words can be extremely powerful in a survivor’s healing journey. To tell someone ‘I believe you’ is telling them they matter and their story has value.
“However, it is not just believing, it is believing without judging.”
When a survivor shares their story, “Our duty as the listener is to listen, thank them for the courage it took to share, and believe them,” Baez said.
Those three simple words, “I believe you” can make all the difference for a survivor.
We cannot continue to normalize sexual harassment. If we see harassment at work, we must intervene. Our silence gives perpetrators permission to continuing harassing their victims.
We cannot be silent.
We can no longer be bystanders.
This is a call to action.
The Haven offers a 24-hour crisis line for those in need of help 209-577-5980. It also provides support services, including shelter, for victims. For those who have suffered workplace harassment, reports can be made to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing at www.dfeh.ca.gov/Employment/.
To any victims who are choosing to remain silent, there is no need to share your story with anyone. #Metoo is not about forcing anyone to tell their story. It is about solidarity. It is about injustice. It is about personal choice. Please know the victim is the expert on what they require to remain safe.
To any and all victims of sexual violence, just know that “I believe you” – without reservation.
“I believe you” without qualification.
I believe you.
Kathleen Rowe-Glendon is a former Bee visiting editor and a community activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.