Last year was equal parts cleansing and abhorrent for the victims of sexual assault. On one hand, a number of individuals were brave enough to step forward and reveal the horrors they had been made to suffer through, effectively ending their painful silence and shining an inescapable spotlight on their attackers. On the other, the backlash these victims received was all too violent and indicative of how deep these roots run in our society.
However, the controversy surrounding the #MeToo movement and its continuation, #TimesUp, has not prevented individuals from continuing to speak out against the deplorable acts of discrimination, harassment, and assault at every opportunity. Celebrities took very public stances at nationally broadcasted awards shows, such as the Golden Globes, the Oscars and, most recently, the Grammys, whether by standing in solidarity with victims or even speaking to their own experiences.
One would think that with all of this overwhelming support, the #MeToo movement should be flourishing. In some ways, this is accurate, as more men and women are being emboldened to tell their stories, to convict their attackers, and to make a genuine, tangible impact on the most vicious parts of our society.
These effects are being felt across the board, exemplified by hallmark events like the recent sentencing of Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor who sexually assaulted over 265 of his patients, or even by the fact office romances have plunged to a new low in the last year alone.
It is important to note, though, that our work is far from over. We must strive to ensure the message of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements do not lose focus or become obscured. For instance, at the Grammys, performer and actor Janelle Monae delivered an eloquent and powerful speech that, in spite of her good intentions, deviated from the emphasis on emboldening the victims of sexual assault and, eventually, snuffing out the putrid act entirely.
Yes, utilizing a public platform to call attention to the inequalities women face, such as the wage gap, is necessary and honorable. However, one should never send send such a message under the same umbrella of sexual harassment and assault. They are remarkably different events and ought to be treated as such.
All in all, we must continue to stand united and fight for humankind’s right to be relieved from oppression and the looming threat of power-hungry individuals who think they are invincible, untouchable, and capable of simply taking whatever captures their fancy — even if it involves causing irreparable harm to another human being.