Since The New York Times outed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator, we have heard increasingly alarming allegations of harassment and abuse by Weinstein and many other unnamed Hollywood elites going back decades.
The horror and outrage over these allegations has sparked a movement, even beyond Hollywood, to end the culture of silence that protects perpetrators.
The Editorial Board believes Weinstein is just one embodiment of the repulsive behavior that occurs in many of our everyday lives. We all have “Weinsteins” in our communities. This has been particularly exemplified by the social media campaign #MeToo, which was started by actress Alyssa Milano on Twitter and has since exploded across multiple platforms.
Many of us have seen friends, family and classmates come forward through the #MeToo campaign to share their experiences of sexual harassment or assault in an effort to demonstrate magnitude of the problem. Anyone can be a victim, and anyone can be a perpetrator.
While harassment and assault have varying degrees of severity, they are all symptoms of the overarching, unjust power structure in our society, that tacitly permits this culture of sexual harassment and violence. This affects both women and men and it needs to be addressed.
Despite #MeToo’s effort to shatter the culture of silence, the threat of complacency looms.
Last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the rollback of the “Dear Colleague Letter” which was an Obama-era initiative to reevaluate the way sexual assault is investigated on college campuses. This Letter was designed to help victims feel more safe about coming forward.
Despite DeVos’s decision, Hopkins announced that it will adhere to the Obama-era Title IX guidelines when evaluating reports of sexual assault or misconduct.
The University’s commitment to supporting victims is especially important given the pervasiveness of sexual violence experienced by students.
Just last Friday, we received a security alert about a female Hopkins student having been sexually assaulted in a residence hall by a male acquaintance. Over the past several years, sexual assaults have also been reported at multiple Hopkins fraternities. These are just the examples that we know about.
We are inspired by those in our community who are sharing their stories. It takes a lot of courage to speak about vulnerable and painful moments.
We also understand that no one should be forced to share their experiences. We hope people who feel uncomfortable speaking out understand that they are still supported and are not alone.
But the momentum gained by #MeToo and other movements cannot stop once Weinstein’s face leaves the 24 hour news cycle. We have reached a watershed moment. Either sexual abuse and harassment throughout our country will no longer be swept under the rug, or we will be having this same conversation a couple years from now.
We cannot stop speaking out, and we cannot stop listening to one another. We must work to ensure that victims are never again left feeling alone — especially with the current presidential administration’s attitude towards Title IX. We cannot let perpetrators continue to hold power because they believe they’re untouchable.
It’s time to show them they are not.