Part two of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka
Today in part 2 of the Rape Culture series, we consider the relationship between the much-debated #MeToo movement and the underlying issue of rape culture.
Raped my freshman year of college, I joined the 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) who experience rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. As a victim of sexual abuse, I joined the many women who spoke out in the #MeToo movement. In October 2017, the #MeToomovement went viral, and I posted on Facebook and Twitter. It felt empowering to think others struggle too.
This was not the first time I posted online for the whole world to see about my abuse. I am a blogger who often writes about my abuse. But for what felt like the first time, I was joined by others in speaking out. Friends I had known for years spoke out for the first time. #MeToo has created more than cathartic relief. The movement has sparked discussion, called men to higher standards, and put people behind bars. Harvey Weinstein was fired and is facing a life sentence. Bill Cosby, whose accusers made allegations made before #MeToo went viral, was sentenced to three to ten years in prison for sexual assault. Many other abusers face sentencing after accusations.
When I first read about the movement, I thought it focused only on sexual assault. But I was wrong. Even though I was a victim, I lived behind the lens of white privilege, failing to see that the #MeToo movement was also about race, privilege, and power. All of these issues intertwine, creating multiple layers that need unpacking. We cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about systemic racism and gender inequality.
How so? In 2006, Tarana Burke firstused #MeToo to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse among women of color, particularly within underprivileged communities. Yet the movement did not gain momentum until the Donald Trump and Billy Bush tape (the “Access Hollywood” tape) leaked, and white women started using the hashtag. Our sable sistas have been crying out, begging for help. Why did it take a white woman to tweet #MeToo for people to stand up and speak out? Unlike me, some women fear sharing their #MeToo stories because they still live in bondage to their abusive partners.Stuck in the house, unable to escape because they have no means of financially supporting themselves or their children on their own, these women remain silent.
So we cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about privilege. Many women in underrepresented populations lack the finances to afford counseling and doctor visits. They suffer in silence—most vulnerable to abuse. After my abuse, I went to the gynecologist and obtained testing for STDs. Many others do not have such an option. After my abuse, I went to counseling and found healing from the trauma. Others may not have this option, either. Not only do many victims fail to receive the emotional and physical help that they need, but they also have to watch their abusers draw a “get out of jail free card.”
We cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about power. We make excuses for celebrities and men in power, and elect presidents who, “Grab ’em by the pussy.” Read the names of the accused: Bill Cosby. Bill Clinton. Donald Trump. Roy Moore. Harvey Weinstein. Bill O’Reilly. Matt Lauer.Andy Savage. Bill Hybels. Brett Kavanaugh. Powerful men in powerful positions—inside and outside of the church. Men of privilege, who have power, but who lack accountability, creating opportunities for abuse. This perpetuates rape culture.
Since #MeToo, the backlash has made it more difficult to help women fight for equality. For example, one article said that men across Wall Street are shutting out females, motivated by fear of facing false accusations of sexual harassment. Such extreme reactions are not fixing the problem, but are making it possibly harder for women who already faced challenges in the work place. Fear prevents women from being able to travel with men, be mentored by men, or partner with men to accomplish tasks. Such fear is present not only in the culture at large but in the Christian subculture, where people have taken “the Billy Graham elevator rule” to an extreme. That is, men avoid being alone with women in elevators and in cars to “avoid sexual temptation.” Avoidance is not the Christian way forward. A look at Romans 16 suggests that men and women need to and can partner in healthy familial relationships to fulfill our calling to multiply worshipers on the earth.