The #MeToo movement has exploded in the past year, following the numerous sexual assault allegations against prominent men, most notably Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. #MeToo has been the subject of heated and polarizing attention, formed to bring change to the way people stigmatize and blame victims for sexual assault cases and to hold powerful men accountable. The #MeToo movement, while only entering mainstream consciousness this year, was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke to create a supportive community for sexual assault victims.
In Aug., Asia Argento, one of Weinstein’s first accusers and a leader of the movement, was accused of sexually assaulting an underage actor and paying him 380,00 dollars for his silence. Argento has since denied the allegations. Similar cases of sexual misconduct have been uncovered of Calif. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, yet another prominent member of the movement. The paradox of Garcia and Argento’s status as outspoken supporters of #MeToo but being accused themselves has sparked a discussion on the impact of gender stereotypes on sexual assault survivors.
“When a man speaks up about sexual assault, it is not taken as seriously than if a woman would speak up about it. If a man or woman speaks up about sexual assault, then we should take both circumstances very seriously and carefully despite the gender of the victim.” Junior Megan Pombo said.
People can be both survivors and perpetrators of sexual misconduct; Vox explains that although negative sexual history is often brought up against reports of sexual violence, people’s crimes do not invalidate their testimony, similar to how people’s experiences as victims do not excuse crimes.
Contrary to popular belief, male victims of sexual assault are not few and far between. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six boys in the United States have experienced sexual abuse before turning 18. Over 1,000 men report being raped to the police every year and this is likely to be less than ten percent of the real number. Despite considerable evidence of the issue, these types of cases have rarely been acknowledged in mainstream society before the news of Argento became widespread. Gender roles contribute to the reluctance of male victims to speak up about their experiences. Many men fear being viewed as weak if they share their story in a society that expects men to be strong and unemotional. They hesitate to come forward and share their own stories because of society’s views regarding strength and masculinity.
“The stigma against males being the victims of sexual assault is a result of gender stereotypes. One of the only ways to change this stereotype is to have the male victims tell their truth. We need to believe male victims so that we can change the ways our society perceives sexual assault,” Junior Sean Huang said.
The Argento and Garcia cases have demonstrated that male sexual assault victims are more common than society has recognized. Some men have utilized the #MeToo movement to share their stories which serves to spread awareness of the obstacles and stigma male survivors receive.
One prominent voice of the #MeToo movement is former NFL player and actor Terry Crews. In Oct. 2017, he shared his experiences on sexual harassment from his agent and received mockery and backlash, with thousands shaming and blaming him, rather than the perpetrator–indicating that although the #MeToo movement has changed perceptions, the stigma facing survivors remains, regardless of gender, race or background.