Two words have had the power to create unity among survivors, dialogue throughout the world and awareness that sexual assault is a widespread problem that has affected many people.
What began as a viral social-media campaign has cultivated into something bigger at Ohio State — a week long #MeToo: Community Conversation hosted by various offices and student groups within the university to talk about the issues surrounding sexual assault.
Kellie Brennan, an Ohio State Title IX coordinator, said the idea to hold a weeklong event came when the Title IX task force — who seeks to protect students against gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence — met for their monthly meeting and conversation of the recently viral “Me too” hashtag began.
“There was a lot of coverage about [Harvey Weinstein] in the media and the deal was that I think there’s already been some outreach from some student groups that want to do something for ‘me too,’” Brennan said. “So we should really organize efforts and have a week that we can highlight all of the great work that people are doing around the campus.”
The “Me too” hashtag emerged following sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a popular film producer, after actress Alyssa Milano wrote on Twitter, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
The phrase was tweeted by 1.7 million Twitter users about a week after the hashtag emerged, Twitter reported to CBS. Women and men shared their stories of assault, some only tweeting “#MeToo” to reveal the scope of sexual assault and harassment, showing survivors were not alone.
Brennan said the week is for everyone, whether they have been personally affected, know somebody that has been affected or don’t, because it helps bring awareness and conversation on sexual assault.
Its final events Friday concluded with OSU Sexual Misconduct Policy training, discussion and resource table and a networking event.
“I think that’s really the beauty of the idea about ‘me too’ is that it helps people realize that even if you didn’t know that someone had experienced this, the likelihood that somebody has is so high,” Brennan said. “When you see all the people on social media and on your feed, you see people posting ‘me too’, you realize the extent of it.”
The topics of the week ranged from information sessions, seminars, panel discussions, workshops and networking events given by groups across the campus.
Take Back the Night, a foundation that seeks to end all forms of sexual violence, increase awareness through events and initiatives and support survivors of abuse, held an information session Monday on their event happening in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
Brennan said the event attracted attention from many different students who were interested in getting the program into full swing at Ohio State.
“I think they had students show up there to talk about restarting [Take Back the Night] in the spring and they had never seen those students before. They were kind of brand new to be engaged,” Brennan said. “We’re seeing that certainly happen, different people that don’t usually show up, kind of finding different ways to get involved. So that’s a great thing.”
On Tuesday, Advocates for Women of the World held their event, “Sexual Assault and Victim Blaming” panel discussion, where representatives from Sexual Civility and Empowerment, Title IX and Columbus business partners spoke on the culture of harassment, how to support people affected by sexual assault and resources available to students.
The panelists discussed victim blaming, a term that is used to describe when people suggest it is the victim’s fault for assault. For instance, the panelists discussed how it is it’s inappropriate to say someone was “asking for it” because of the way that person is are dressed adds responsibility and guilt to a survivor who is dealing with an assault that was not their fault.
Marissa Smithinsky, a third-year in international studies and french, and AWOW’s sexual assault awareness committee chair, said she wanted to create awareness about what victim blaming looks like and how it is damaging.
“I think the biggest aspect is awareness, people victim blame every single day and they have no idea they are doing it,” Smithinsky said. “I think by the small group of people that came they might, through word of mouth, spread it to another person.”
Brennan said any time people can a get university-wide focus to a particular issue is a good opportunity to get people thinking and talking.
“Any issue that’s going on whether it’s a national conversation or whether it’s kind of a community thing — an Ohio State thing — that we can make the difference because we’re a big community,” Brennan said. “We have a lot of people with a lot of power and influence and students are amazing and they can get things done.”
The #MeToo: Community Conversations week also had it’s #MeToo Discussion Thursday to discuss the movement, also giving students the opportunity to express what the movement means to them.