#MeToo: U of S students respond to sexual assault through social media

By in News

Millions have taken to social media to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the hashtag #MeToo, including students at the University of Saskatchewan.

The Me Too movement can be traced back to Tarana Burke, an African-American feminist who founded a non-profit group to assist sexual-assault survivors like herself. However, only after Alyssa Milano, an actor who has been in the entertainment industry since childhood, tweeted the phrase “Me too” did it go viral.

Alyssa Milano shared the following statement on her Twitter account: “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.”

Cleo Nguyen, a third-year political studies major, is one of many U of S students to participate in the #MeToo movement. Although initially hesitant to share the hashtag, Nguyen believes that the overall experience was positive.

“I think, for the most part, it’s been good. It’s validating in some sort of weird, awful way to see so many recounts. I think the basis of it is just knowing you’re not alone,” Nguyen said. “Just talking about these things, I feel a sense of relief and validation. It’s just difficult to put yourself out there.”

As of Oct. 22, Milano’s tweet had received over 68,000 replies and 25,000 retweets. According to the Guardian, Facebook reports that 4.7 million users engaged with #MeToo within a 24-hour period, generating 12 million posts, likes and reactions.

#MeToo is part of a larger discussion about sexual assault currently taking place on social media. Although sexual assault is not a new topic, it has received greater attention following an exposé published by The New York Times detailing allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein from a number of women.

In addition to positive experiences, Nguyen acknowledges that there are issues with  #MeToo, particularly regarding issues of diversity.

“This hashtag … generally seems to be directed at people who identify as female — like women. But, [we] definitely [need to be] able to bring in voices of non-binary people [for] people who don’t identify necessarily with their assigned sex … to also be included in the conversation,” Nguyen said.

With such a high volume of sensitive material on social media, some students may find themselves overwhelmed. Sabrina Materie, the Healthy Relationships group co-ordinator for Peer Health and a fourth-year psychology student, speaks to the negative impacts that #MeToo may have on student wellness.

“While the Me Too campaign has been super impactful, it puts a lot of pressure on survivors to out themselves and discuss painful experiences and trauma, [which] can make navigating social media exhausting,” Materie said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Materie notes that there are a number of resources available at the U of S for students who may be struggling with the topic of sexual assault.

“If someone’s feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by the media they’re seeing related to this campaign, resources on campus like the Women’s Centre and Student Wellness [Centre] can help if you need to talk to a trained volunteer or professional,” Materie said. “Peer Health [also] hosts drop-in peer support where trained student volunteers offer a free, confidential space … to chat through and support you in anything you’re experiencing.”

When it comes to addressing sexual assault at the U of S, Materie emphasizes the importance of education and prevention.

“The best [way] to create a healthier and more consent-oriented culture is to educate yourself on consent and what it means and be a positive bystander,” Materie said. “Sexual assault occurs at the community level, and reducing the prevalence of it is something everyone can participate in.”

Emily Klatt

Graphic:  emma / Flickr

  • name

    Women and non-binary people? What about men? Or are they too “privileged” for feminists to care about when their human rights being abused?

    • ghanderman

      historically women and non-gender conforming individuals have been the primary targets and numerically over-represented victim populations in sexual assault.

      despite this, men, as a collective, not you individually, have routinely (and institutionally) silenced this simple fact. thus the response has been to be very explicit about who the majority of victims/survivors are (it’s not men, though some men and boys do experience sexual assault).

      no one’s stopping you from organizing something, so why not spend your energy on that instead of complaining about being left out on an online forum?

    • Mhmm

      But you do realize the problem with saying that men as a collective have silenced this fact, right? When you make a generalization like that, you better own it. Saying: “not you individually” essentially negates any meaning you’ve just given to this generalization.

      So, either own it and say, “yeah, if this person is a man, he has probably participated in this collective silencing, I mean, I have no evidence for this whatsoever but it’s probably true” or maybe do something a logical person would and say “hey, there are some shitty people out there who think sexual harassment and assault is okay.”

      I assume you would include the “not you individually” clause when speaking to any man unless you know they’ve done something wrong, so I’m not sure what the point of this generalization is. Do you seriously think that the amount of men who have sexually assaulted a woman is so high that it is more logical to paint men as a collective from which you then select members and say “well, not you, you seem like someone who doesn’t assault women,” rather than singling out the people who actually do assault women?

      Where is this male collective? Can I sign up? Do they give out membership cards? Or is it just a collection of unrelated men who happen to be complete jackasses or perhaps had a slip up once or twice while under the influence? This need to generalize and stereotype is infuriating. It’s almost like people who do this have some sort of delusional ulterior motives. I’m talking about these people as a collective of course, not you individually.

      P.S. Did you assume this person’s gender?

    • ghanderman

      considering that this is a school article, i’m making the HUGE assumption that:

      1.) you are actually students and;

      2.) that you understand and can practice critical thinking skills and research. meaning, do your own research.

      granted it’s the prairies so that might be an unfair assumption given that rural areas tend not to develop intellectually as quickly or deeply as urban areas and bigotry, denial, and other atavistic forms of oppression tend to hold out for longer than other places.

      i mean, what else could explain your posts aside from the paranoid delusion that feminism is out to destroy western culture?

      canadians: lol

      redneck canadians: LOLOL

    • Mhmm

      You seem to be a master of missing the point.

      I’m not sure if I’m being trolled, if you don’t understand irony, or if you lack the intellectual capacity to understand basic logic. Hey, maybe it’s all of those.

      I would be glad to do my own research if you had actually provided some “facts” to research. You’ve made no factual claims that I can actually discern. All you’ve done is throw some generalities at the wall in hopes they would stick. Whoa, women have been victims of sexual assault in higher numbers than men throughout history?… *expression of complete shock* … No way! That has absolutely no bearing on your assertion that men as a collective have been responsible for this. Do you have studies to back that up? Do you have statistics? I won’t hold my breath. However, I do hope you can grasp the difference between a group of people conspiring to do something versus a genera pattern of isolated incidents. Your logic is basically the same as taking online credit card fraud which is committed mostly by men and saying that men as a collective are responsible for this. If you cannot see the logical flaw with that, I’m not sure how else I can help.

      I’m also a bit confused by what is either an attempt at humor or an attempt at discrediting me based on yet another assumption of where I’ve grown up? Either way, it’s deeply ironic that you see yourself as a member of the “intellectually developed” urban areas, despite that statement being coated in a questionable ad hominem on top of your consistent failure to provide any hint of rational thinking; I dare not address the critical thinking side of your response since I fear I might collapse into a permanent state of laughter.

      My post* (notice singular since I only posted once before you replied) made no mention of feminism destroying western culture, so I see you’re quite intent on riding the assumption train until it finds its unfortunate demise at the hands of an ill-repaired railway bridge. Again, you’ve made no actual rebuttal nor have you attempted to strengthen your original assertion. Rather, you’ve made poor attempts at insults, ad hominems, and red herrings. If I were you, I’d think about taking Philosophy 140 on Critical Thinking since it seems you’ve missed the lecture on logic and rationality. [note how I didn’t make any assumptions about you since all I need is what you’ve already revealed in the incompetency of your posts]

      Also, not sure what the Canadian: lol and Rural Canadian: lolol thing is about. Only makes me think you’re trolling more.

      Now, just for fun, let’s list all of the assumptions you’ve made in your reply to me:

      1. “you are actually students,” why very reasonable since it’s a student paper
      2. “that you understand and can practice critical thinking skills and research,” quite reasonable as well. After all, it’s a pretty charitable assumption to grant to anyone really.
      3. “rural areas tend not to develop intellectually as quickly or deeply as urban areas,” not sure I’d agree with that. At any rate, you’re not making yourself look any better by assuming this.
      4. “bigotry, denial, and other atavistic forms of oppression tend to hold out for longer than other places,” again, not sure I’d agree.
      5. “what else could explain your posts aside from the paranoid delusion that feminism is out to destroy western culture,” yeah, what assumption could possibly explain what you assume about me. Is that an assumption within an assumption? Assumception?

      My god, it’s like your whole reply is one giant assumption not grounded in any fact. Seriously though, Philosophy 140, highly recommend. *Assuming* you go to U of S.


    • name (OP)

      ummm I’m a girl

    • Guest

      Do these figures include prison rape?