By Sophie Czerniecki and Elise LaFleur
#MeToo is a crucial, important, and empowering movement to raise awareness about sexual assault and to ensure that people, regardless of gender, know that they are not alone. It is a movement that should be taken seriously and not used as an effort to push a political issue from one side of the aisle or another. Let one thing be clear: sexual assault is not a partisan issue. Those who attempt to weaponize it for their own personal gain or narrative undermine the very core of this movement, and herein lies the difficulty with the national dialogue today.
The problem with the conversation surrounding sexual assault, like anything in our polarized society today, is that the popular narrative has driven our country to shift from #MeToo to #BelieveWomen. While this move is viewed by some as ‘pro-women,’ this viewpoint is actually a very slippery slope which is extremely dangerous for America and for our legal system, not to mention relationships between men and women in society.
The American legal system was founded upon the ideas of due process and the “innocent until proven guilty” standard, but the issue with #BelieveWomen is that society is taking away that due process and putting men in the unequal position of “guilty until proven innocent.” We should believe women, but we also need to believe men too, because sometimes false accusations are made. Individuals should have the opportunity to defend their honor, regardless of gender. While there are terrible actions that have been perpetrated by men in our society, they are not always the party at fault in these situations when it comes to matters of sexual assault and harassment. Men have done unspeakable things to women and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, not all men are at fault or should be viewed as possible perpetrators because of the few who have made these choices.
When society as a whole begins to generalize the actions of a few and apply labels to groups of people with one commonality, assumptions are made and individuals become defined by what other people have done rather than their own actions. Instead of raising one gender up over the other, maybe we should consider raising awareness on how sexual assault affects both genders and work together as a society to put an end to these behaviors from both sides. Most importantly, let us not forget as a society to act with sincerity, compassion, and consideration towards survivors of sexual assault and trauma. No matter where your opinion stands on #MeToo and #BelieveWomen, we should all listen to those who decide to tell their story. Their bravery and courage inspires us to stand up and use our voices to fight against injustices in our society each and every day, and to support survivors no matter the status of the national conversation or headlines.