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What Does #MeToo Really Mean? Pt2

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

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Summary: This two-part article was inspired by a talk given by Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo Movement. In part I1, I talked about the history of the #MeToo Movement. In this second part, there are some hard facts about sexual assault and who it affects the most. I’ve also included information on how to get involved. Your voice is needed to end sexual violence.

What Does #MeToo Really Mean? Pt2

METOO???

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so what better time to discuss how you can help end sexual violence. Imagine a world in which human beings didn’t have to worry about being sexually assaulted. That’s what #MeToo is really all about. The movement is trying to give voice to a hidden problem. 

As nurses, we are often present in the darkest hours of our patient’s night, so it’s important that we have knowledge and resources to offer when we discover that a patient has been a victim of sexual assault. As both a nurse and a survivor myself, I often feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the problem. I often feel discouraged -- like no matter how hard we try, sexual violence is inevitable. Seeing Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo speak gave me hope and some tools for positive change.

I’m going to share some of what Tarana said about ending sexual violence when she spoke at a fundraiser for our local sexual assault support network. She spoke of how hard it is to fight something in the dark. Tarana believes that bringing sexual assault into the light and giving victims a stronger, louder voice will help end sexual violence. Looking at the timeline of this movement gives me hope that it’s possible. It’s been only a year since actor Alyssa Milano tweeted about sexual harassment in Hollywood and brought Ms. Burke’s decade of work into the national spotlight. We are now having an international dialogue about sexual violence. There’s increased awareness, but like all things, without attention and focus, media and public attention will fade.

POWER TOOLS

Right now, the media is focused on a small portion of sexual violence. Ms. Burke reminded me that it’s not all about sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual assault is a power tool. It is very much a social issue. Sexual violence statistics reveal that LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Intersex and Asexual)and women of color are at higher risk due to the higher rates of poverty, stigma, and marginalization found in these groups.3

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)4, one in three women and one in six men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Almost half of women of color and over 45% of American Indian/Alaskan Native women were subjected to some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Studies suggest that around half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence at some point in their lives.3

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the national sexual assault hotline(800.656.HOPE) According to RAINN, every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes that victim if a child. Meanwhile, only 5/1000 perpetrators will end up in prison.5

Tarana Burke talked about how sexism and racism are both tools of oppression and the intersection of these two problems make women of color more susceptible to sexual violence. Women of color have more difficulty accessing support services or receiving fair treatment within criminal justice system. Experiences with institutionalized racism may make it difficult for women of color to trust the system and institutions that are supposed to help them.6

IT’S NOT ABOUT MEN

There's a misconception that #MeToo is about taking down powerful men. Tarana reminded us to ignore the media, who are shaping the stories they tell to sell news -- the definition of clickbait. The media wants us to get caught up in the individuals: Cosby, Cavanaugh, Michael Jackson, R. Kelly. Tarana reminded us, “They’re bad actors, but they aren’t the problem. The problem is unchecked accumulation of power and a misuse of privilege. Those are the ingredients for oppression. Sexual violence is a tool of oppression.” She used an analogy to explain, “It’s like playing whack a mole when underneath it there’s a system creating them. You can’t whack the system.”

SURVIVORS AT THE CENTER

Tarana talked about the lack of accountability. So far no one who has been accused has had the courage or grace to say, “I did it and I’m sorry, and here is what I have done and am going to do to make the world a better place. I am not the person I was when I sexually assaulted that woman. I am sorry.” There’s a leadership vacuum. So, we have to step up. We can’t wait to be led. While people are bickering about who did what, survivors are being forgotten. Tarana encourages us to put the focus back on the survivors, to empower them and place them at the center of the discussion.

We need a dramatic narrative shift. We need to educate the public on what it looks like to survive. Even the happiness. It’s okay to tell jokes, laugh and be happy. Tarana said, “I’m not going to give away joy because someone thinks I need to live my life a certain way because I was assaulted.” We also need to understand that survivors may not remember all the details. That’s part of it. Just because you can’t recall all the details doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I am a survivor, and I have many large gaps in my memory. Trauma has that effect on memory, blotting out some parts, playing up others. It’s frustrating to me that I remember really specific traumatic events all too well, but can’t recall other things I’d really like to remember. 

Here are some Tarana Burke messages to carry with you (pick your favorite, write it on a post-it note and put it on the mirror at work):

  • We have a global community of survivors who are committed to healing and action. 
  • Healing is a life long journey.
  • Your life can be different than what it is now.
  • The pain doesn’t go away.
  • If you’re trying to get to where you don’t feel anymore, all you’ll feel like is a failure.
  • There is no one way to heal. 

According to Tarana, these are the central questions about sexual violence:

  • How did we get here?
  • How do we stop it?
  • How do we make sure it never happens again?

VAWA

There’s something you can do. Today. Now.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was drafted by Senator Joe Biden and passed through Congress in 1994. This act focuses on a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services now work together in a coordinated effort that didn’t exist before the act. This act was a BIG DEAL in 1994. It created the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes (can you even believe we lived in a world where that wasn’t the case?)7

One of the hurdles this act faced in 1994 was the prevailing idea that women who were abused had somehow “asked for it.” There was also a reluctance in the U.S. to interfere with “private” matters. The stigma about domestic and sexual violence was so strong that many women suffered silently. Thanks to VAWA we now have a national domestic violence hotline (800-799-7233) and an office within the Justice Department that focuses on violence against women. 

Laws periodically need to be reauthorized to allow them to evolve to reflect the changing times. VAWA was last reauthorized in 2012 by President Obama (Click HERE to read more about the improvements the most recent reauthorization added).7 

On April 4th, 2019 a bipartisan bill (HR 1585) to renew and improve VAWA was passed by the House and will soon go to the Senate. One of the additions to VAWA is a bill that would keep intimate partners who have been convicted of abuse and stalking from purchasing guns. What’s interesting to me is that we already have a law that prevents domestic abusers who have been married to the victim, live with the victim, have a child with the victim or are a parent or guardian of the victim from owning a gun (Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968). The new bill is proposing is that stalkers, boyfriends and partners be added to the law.7 

This bill is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and is not expected to pass the Senate. 

What if 3 million nurses decided that VAWA is important? What if we all stop what we are doing, right now and contact our Senate Representatives? Nurses have power. We can be a force for positive change. Please consider urging your senators to reauthorized VAWA.

There are three key ways to support VAWA8

  1. Call your representative right now and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6545) Click HERE to find your state senators. 
  2. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for your local paper about the importance of reauthorizing VAWA. There are templates on the National Domestic Violence hotline website.8
  3. Sign a letter of support (the NDV website has links to letters already up and running.)

DO SOMETHING

Tarana said, “Twelve million people used #MeToo in the first 24 hours after that tweet in 2017. What if twelve million people caught a disease? The reaction would have been incredible.” 

So let’s do something:

  • Advocate for VAWA
  • Ask those running for office, “How are you working to make this community less vulnerable to sexual violence?” 
  • Read the sexual harassment policy at your place of work, cover to cover. Print it out and make copies. Have a lunch date to go over it. Compare it to your lived experience at your job. 

Tarana said, “#MeToo doesn’t have the urgency of a young man being gunned down in the street. You don’t see the sexual assault happening. It happens in secret. No one can see our wounds. It’s not a bomb, it’s a declaration.” 

“Recognize the urgency of this moment. These things come and go. We may not have much time. You need to be committed to this whether I’m on the cover of Time or not. If you are ready to do the work, I will leave you with two words, me too.”

REFERENCES

  1. Part 1: What Does #MeToo Really Mean? 
  2. More info about LGBTQIA
  3. Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community
  4. National Sexual Violence Resource Center
  5. RAINN
  6. Racism and sexual assault
  7. VAWA
  8. National Domestic Violence Hotline

Dr. Kristi Miller, aka Safety Nurse is an Assistant Professor of nursing at USC-Upstate and a Certified Professional in Patient Safety. She is also a mother of four who loves to write so much that she would probably starve if her phone didn’t remind her to take a break. Her work experiences as a hospital nurse make it easy to skip using the bathroom to get in just a few more minutes on the computer. She is obsessed with patient safety. Please read her blog, Safety Rules! on allnurses.com. You can also get free Continuing Education at www.safetyfirstnursing.com. In the guise of Safety Nurse, she is sending a young Haitian woman to nursing school and you can learn more about that adventure: https://www.gofundme.com/rose-goes-to-nursing-school

10 Followers; 38 Articles; 13,884 Visitors; 214 Posts

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