Since the social media campaign spark in October 2017, the #MeToo movement hits close to home with members of the Clarke community. They hope Clarkies will participate in the upcoming “Denim Day” on April 26th.
The #MeToo movement spread across the United States when actor Harvey Weinstein was accused by several women in Hollywood of sexual assault. Within hours, women were posting on their social media accounts “#MeToo,” showing that they too are survivors, and support the awareness of sexual abuse. For some Clarke University students, faculty, and staff, the media outburst ignited conversation of just how often sexual assault happens.
Triston King, Assistant Director of Engagement and Intercultural Programs at Clarke University, says it is time to take action on such a prevalent issue in today’s society. “If you are looking at the #MeToo campaign as a shift in culture, as something where people look at this and say, ‘Oh my gosh! Today forty women that I know on my Facebook feed posted this.’ Think about that. Think about how many women you have on your profile. Think about the ratio of women you have who actively post and that you pay attention to.” This was a personal driving force for King. He suggests that the real way to make a cultural shift is to raise awareness for the issue.
Renee Dionisio, student, had similar ideas as King. Together, they decided to sit at a table in Clarke’s atrium and start the conversation in late November. Dionisio sat at the table with small pieces of paper and a box, prompting members of the Clarke community to write either #MeToo or #IHave. “A lot of people did not know what it was, so I had to explain it to them. I could tell they were uncomfortable to even write #MeToo or even #IHave.” The table was set up for two weeks. Dionisio recalls, “It was hard until one person came and wrote #MeToo. She told me her story and was very wide open with it.” For her, this moment and an encounter she had with a faculty member put things into perspective.
After the fourteen days were up, the slips were posted on a wall in the Fabiano conference room at Clarke. In the end, about forty slips were turned in and hung on the wall. A majority of these slips read #MeToo, and about a third of those had stories attached to them. A conversation took place at 7 p.m. on November 20 in the conference room.
King says that these were posted on the conference room wall for two reasons. Firstly, King said it gave those survivors a voice that they deserve. He told members of the Clarke community, “We want you to feel completely free to write down everything and anything that happened to you.” This allowed students to write anonymously so they would not have to hold back any details. It also gave other students an opportunity to see just how many people are affected by this issue in just the Clarke community.
“In the moment is where we want change,” King states. He suggests to the people who are in fear of coming forward to, first, remove yourself from the situation. However, King insists that you must do something about it in order to create change. “If you know something is happening but you are afraid to say anything, call someone you trust. Call campus security. Call the police. Do whatever you feel is necessary.” Dionisio also wants to remind students that even if you are unsure, there will be consequences to those perpetrators.
Dionisio and King also would like to let the Clarke community know about the upcoming “Denim Day” on April 26. Students are encouraged to wear denim to show support and solidarity for those who are survivors of sexual violence.
Clarke students are encouraged to also use the support systems on and off campus. Both the counseling center and campus ministry are not required to report cases of sexual violence, however, resident advisors, student employees, and faculty members are mandatory reporters. The Riverview Center is also a great source for students who want to talk with people who share the same experiences or discuss policies of sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, the number for the 24-Hour Sexual Assault Hotline is 888-557-0310.
By Emily Boge