By Stephanie Booth
October 05, 2018
It’s been one year since The New York Times published an explosive article detailing the sexual abuse allegations made against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Famous men have been accused of all kinds of sexual misconduct before, of course. But this time, the Weinstein story struck a raw nerve with women, and a formidable movement was born.
Though #MeToo was started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the hashtag surged to the forefront of the public consciousness over the last 12 months. Thousands of women continue to use it to share (some for the first time ever) their own stories of being sexually harassed, abused, and assaulted by men whose actions went unpunished, while they felt silenced and shamed.
Since then, well-known figures in entertainment, politics, and business have been publicly called out for a wide range of sexual misconduct. Survivors who once thought it was their fault when a boss groped them or a date assaulted them realized the power of speaking out—and that they were not alone.
Here, 6 sexual abuse survivors open up to Health about the personal experience that made them decide to add their voices to the #MeToo reckoning, and how this movement that continues to gain strength and power has transformed their lives.
Hannah Saunders, 30: “I’ve Stopped Trying to Erase What Happened to Me”
“In college, I was raped by a man I met at a bar. When I tried to report the rape or tell those close to me, I was met with questions and comments that made me feel guilty and ashamed for what happened and for what I did to protect myself. The details of the assault didn’t fit the narrative for a successful court case, and ultimately, the district attorney opted not to pursue it. I thought that ‘moving on’ meant I should stop talking about it as well. I carried the shame of my experience for years.
#MeToo brought up really painful memories for me. I looked at others’ experiences and compared them to my own. In the beginning, I didn’t believe mine mattered. But as I read and listened to survivors, I no longer felt like my story had to fit into the box that the detective or the prosecutor gave me to be considered worth telling. I saw a new way to tell it, with all of its complexity and inconvenient details.
I started therapy at Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim service agency. I used to believe that healing was never thinking or talking about the assault again. I imagined that I could just figure out how to erase what happened from my memory. Instead, I developed skills to cope with my anxiety and to identify and address the ways in which the trauma I’d experienced was still affecting me.
I feel grateful that so many survivors have come forward to tell their stories. I benefited from their bravery, and this makes me hopeful that other survivors who have been silenced like I was can feel seen and heard as well.”