– Aine McGlynn
#MeToo – like an avalanche or a tidal wave, they keep cascading down your social media feeds. One after the other – revelations of sexual assault and harassment from your friends, their friends, your sisters, your cousins, their friends, women you don’t know, women you’ve seen in movies, women you work with. And for every #MeToo you read, you’re sure that there are a dozen more who guard their story carefully.
So what do you do online? How should you react in real life? What should you not do?
On Social Media
Believe. This issue is real. Believe survivors’ experiences. A simple of act of showing support and solidarity like posting “I believe survivors” makes a difference.
Spend some time addressing people who are blaming survivors. Support survivors by doing the hard emotional labour of blocking, reporting or engaging with hateful, misogynistic comments.
Take and share the White Ribbon pledge. Encourage other male id’d folks in your life to do the same.
Acknowledge your role in promoting and supporting rape culture (a culture in which male sexual violence is normalised or trivialised and survivors are blamed for their own abuse). It’s okay to do this. It doesn’t make you a monster. Rape culture is everywhere – it is part of the fabric of our society. Name it, admit it and promise to do call it out when you see it.
Promote consent culture: a culture in which asking for consent and respecting the answer is normalised. Promote it even though you may have just learned about it.
Don’t be surprised. Though you may in fact be surprised; you shouldn’t be. Assault and harassment have been a part of almost every woman’s experience of the world for a very very long time. If you are surprised, you haven’t been paying attention. Talk about your surprise with other men in your life. Acknowledge your accountability. Unpack your power and privilege together.
Don’t stay silent. Really and truly, this is a great moment to take action and show solidarity. Don’t let it pass you by. Even if you haven’t always been a great ally, it’s okay to admit that and commit to do better.
In Real Life –
Offer support and respect a survivor’s path to healing. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways of dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence.
Tell the people you see “it’s not your fault”’. No one asks for or deserves to be sexually assaulted or harassed.
Listen with respect and empathy if survivors want to talk about the details of what happened.
Follow up with the commitments you made when you signed the pledge. We’ll support you to make sure your realise these promises.
Talk to the other men in your life. Have that hard conversation about power, privilege and masculinity. They’ve probably been thinking about it too.
Don’t avoid survivors. Although it may be tempting to avoid eye contact, hurry away, and pretend that you didn’t see their statement, putting your head in the sand is not helpful.
Don’t ask why they didn’t report it. First of all, they may have. Second of all, many survivors don’t report because they aren’t safe doing so. Reporting is a complex issue that you should inform yourself about rather than assuming that it’s always possible, or the correct course of action.
Don’t try to solve a survivor’s “issue”. It’s a great instinct to want to help, but first, try asking if there’s anything that you can do. Follow their lead on this.
Don’t keep abusers in your life. Doing so makes public and private spaces unsafe for women and vulnerable people. Instead, build relationships that are not based on violence, coercion and dominance.
This list isn’t definitive, but for many of us it may be a place to start. For others, it may be a well-worn guide of strategies that you’ve read in many places before. We hope that it inspires action, not just today as the #MeToo chorus bravely sustains its pitch, but on every other day as well.