Stigma, mental health and U(W): #Metoo, now what?

Me Too, Now What

Illustration by Andrew Estey

via The Daily of the University of Washington

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-HOPE is free, confidential, and available 24/7. In an emergency, call 911. More support resources are listed below.

Y’all, it’s been a week.

As obviously necessary as it has been to see the rank infection of systematic sexual abuse finally made visible, the last seven days of emotional pin-ball has left me teetering near the edge of perpetual exhaustion.

For those who participated in last week’s #metoo hashtag resurgence, either aloud or in silence, the unpredictable and inescapable reminders of something deeply, personally painful can be a double-edge sword.

So what can we do about it? How can this unveiled network of survivors sustain this momentum and hold people accountable for promises of change, without constantly reopening old wounds?

Self-care

First and foremost, take care of your own body and mind. When was the last time you ate something with vitamins or had a full glass of water? Does a nap sound especially nice? What happened to your workout routine? Can you do something fun tonight that doesn’t involve social media?

Print out the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) one-page list of post-trauma self-care tips, tape it to your wall, and check in with yourself as often as needed.

Be careful, though, that you don’t fall into the isolation trap. Taking care of yourself will help close open wounds, but repairing the underlying tissue means rebuilding connections.

Empathy

This answer comes from the hashtag’s originator, Tarana Burke. In a statement on metoo.support, the website for the organization she founded in 2006, Burke explained why empathy was so vital.

About the group’s mission, Burke wrote, “The only ‘expertise’ we had was as survivors ourselves … It wasn’t until I was able to connect with other folks who created safe space for me to process my pain and who deeply empathized with me that I felt like I had ‘permission’ to heal.”

Burke founded the ‘me too’ movement after the heartbreaking experience of disappointing a young camper who came to her in confidence. Her concern over providing the right kind of help kept Burke from seeing the child’s loudest need: to be heard and acknowledged.

Last week after the hashtag started trending, Burke sat down for an interview with Mic Media to place current events into context.

Healing, in cases of sexual assault, isn’t as simple as getting something off your chest. It requires a certain amount of reciprocity and understanding that not everyone is equipped to provide on short notice, survivor or not, and that is okay.

If a friend comes to you for support and you have no idea what to say, RAINN has several good articles on how to help, as does the UW’s sexual assault resources page.

But empathy doesn’t have to be confined to heavy, one-on-one conversations. Sometimes the emotional catharsis involved demands more room, like a therapist’s office or a peer support group.

Or, like in UW senior Charlie Shih’s case, a giant canvas.

Shih is the artist behind “Active Voice,” an interactive art installation/performance piece intended to refocus the #metoo conversation on perpetrators of sexual violence, and away from victims, using the hashtag #theydid.

For Shih, the project is about catharsis.

“I have a lot of screaming to do,” Shih explained.

On the event’s Facebook page, Shih invites the UW’s community members to add to her piece by writing out the first names of their aggressors on the physical, visible medium between the Allen and Suzzallo libraries from Oct. 30 through Nov. 3.

Representatives from the school’s Peer Health Educators program as well as the UWPD and Health & Wellness Advocacy offices (more on them from Daily reporter Devon McBride coming up) will be on hand for questions at times throughout the week.

More resources

UW’s sexual assault resources page — http://www.washington.edu/sexualassault/ — contains information on school resources for medical care and counseling, making reports, and contacting confidential UWPD or Health & Wellness advocates.

RAINN’s resources for after a sexual assault has occurred — https://www.rainn.org/after-sexual-assault — and media consumption tips for survivors — https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-survivors-consuming-media

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center — https://www.nsvrc.org/

RAINN’s list of additional resources include, but are not limited to: disabled, LGBTQIA+, and male survivor help, mental health assistance, legal help, and prevention information.