A couple of days ago, the first handful of “Me, too” postings turned up in my Facebook newsfeed. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s what the instructions said:
“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.
Usually, those copy/paste status things on facebook make little to no sense and I don’t join in. This, though, made sense, so I did. Because yes, me, too, and if I can be of a little assistance in increasing visibility of something that happens throughout our society on such a regular basis, it has become near invisible, then yes, why not. It seemed logical. Simple.
Of course, things rarely are simple. Or logical. While I was still copy/pasting, the little voice in my brain was already busy murmuring. “What about the men?” it inquired. “Men get harassed or assaulted too. This isn’t just a woman thing.” Or: “Define harassment. Some woman may post this when the worst that ever happened to her was catcalls.”
Funny how the brain immediately starts to shift guilt or make light of a situation.
So what are the facts?
A survey in the US, conducted in 2014, found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment, with 41% having experienced more than mere catcalls. They got sexually touched, followed, and/or were forced to do something sexual. Among men, the street harassment figure is significantly lower, 25%, and there’s also a significant difference between LGBT-identified men and heterosexual men – the most common form of harassment men experienced were homophobic or transphobic slurs. (Source)
In 2015, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was asked to investigate 6,822 allegations of sexual harassment at work. (Source) This number undoubtedly represents a small fraction of what’s actually going on, because according to a 2013 YouGov/Huffington Post poll, 75% of people who experience sexual harassment at work don’t report it. Complaints from men seem to be on the rise here – in 1990, 92% of all claims were filed by women, compared to 83% in 2015. The reason for that could be a shift in society – you know, this thing where men aren’t allowed to appear weak? Yeah, we’re slowly getting off that particular horse. Or maybe it’s to do with the fact that more and more women are taking over leadership positions, and power corrupts. I don’t know, and the statistics have no answer either.
According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. One in six women and one in thirty-three men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. (Source)
Conclusion? An overwhelming majority of sex offenders are male, and an overwhelming majority of victims are women. Yes, women can be perpetrators too. No, it’s not just a woman thing. But it’s an overwhelming majority woman thing. On the other hand, are we so focused on the female victim that it’s hard for the male victims to make themselves heard?
A male friend of mine took the above mentioned Facebook status, silently swapped ‘women’ for ‘people’ and made the status his own. All the girls applauded him for his bravery, and rightly so. At the same time, girls who told the stories of how they were harassed or assaulted also mentioned how their protests were met with “Don’t make such a fuss” – and not just by the perpetrator, but also by witnesses. So while it may (big ‘may’) be easier for women to speak up about sexual harassment or violence, in my experience they’ll more likely be silenced than the men.
Either way, as the figures – and the steadily increasing number of ‘Me, too’ in my Facebook newsfeed – show, the problem is a huge one, and what’s worse, it’s a problem we’re all aware of BUT IT EXISTS ANYWAY. Because not enough is done about it, not by the mythical beast known as the society, nor by every single individual who has ever experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or assault.
Don’t be complacent, don’t be complicit. Speak up, shout if speaking doesn’t do the trick, shame the perpetrators, and do it now – not tomorrow, not in ten years when you can’t prove your allegations anymore. Do it now. And maybe, just maybe, they, whoever they are, male, female, will understand that no means no.