17 Oct 2017

#MeToo campaign picking up pace

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:28 pm on 17 October 2017

An online outpouring of unity showing the extent of sexual abuse, attacks and harassment of women has taken off on social media.

Protesters attend the Women's March to protest President Donald Trump in Washington, USA on January 21, 2017.

Protesters attend the Women's March in Washington this year. Photo: AFP

Actress Alyssa Milano was one of the first to call for people to share their experiences via the #MeToo hashtag in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein abuse revelations.

People are sharing their own abuse stories or simply saying #MeToo on social media to indicate they have been abused.

The #MeToo rallying cry has generated 650,000 tweets and more than 12 million posts on Facebook since Sunday.

Anyone wanting help, the sexual violence support line phone number is 0800 88 33 00

Fiona McNamara from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network in Wellington said it was a powerful reminder of the extent of problem.

"It's really interesting seeing it unfold, it's quite overwhelming actually to see the number of women who are saying "me too" on social media and it really is giving an impression of how widespread this issue is."

"People are realising if it hasn't happened to them they're seeing so many of their friends and family members saying it has happened to them.

"It really does show sexual violence is an issue that does touch every single one of us," Ms McNamara says.

If someone has not spoken up, it does not mean it has not happened to them. There are many reasons for silence, she said.

"People could be worried for their own safety, maybe they're a victim of ongoing abuse, maybe it's still happening to them and they're not comfortable speaking out about it."

Ms McNamara said that if people chose to post specific experiences online, to be careful and think about the effect on a reader.

"Some people are writing trigger warning or content warning at the top of their posts and having the post further down," she said.

A trigger is when someone's story of abuse can bring back painful memories for another person.

"Particularly with social media, you don't really know where they [readers] are, they could be at work they could be on the bus," she said.

And if someone you know has posted and you want to show support there are some dos and don'ts, she says.

"It's not appropriate to ask someone to share their story about something like that. I think the best thing to do is to show that you support them, and show that you believe them and also check that they're safe now ... is this [abuse] still on-going?

"If they've chosen to share that on social media then you can write a comment on their post and say 'I support you I'm sorry this happened, I'm here if you want to talk'."

The campaign was raising awareness it was a terrible problem in New Zealand, she said.

"In New Zealand we know that one-in four-women, one-in-six to ten men and one-in-two trans people experience sexual violence in their life time, that is more overtly violent sexual abuse.

"When we're talking about harassment and things like cat calling I think it's probably closer to 100 percent of women."

She said there were 186,000 offences a year recorded in New Zealand.

"There's a lot of talk of, 'imagine if it had happened to your mother or sister how would you feel then?' But they shouldn't have to imagine that happening to someone close to them to be taking this issue seriously, it's a hugely widespread issue."

Groups such as hers want a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem, she said.
 
"We want to see a widespread comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention in this country. There's a really small amount of attention paid to it and a really small portion of government funding goes towards violence prevention.

"We're really talking about overhauling an entire culture here."

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