On Jan. 24, Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison after decades of sexual assault on American female Olympians. Though this and the ground breaking speech by Oprah Winfrey at the golden globes are in some ways measures of success to the #MeToo and #Timesup movements, this is certainly not the end point from which we can say the matter is done with. The TimesUp Legal Defense Fund reached $15 million, and awards shows have now seen black dresses, black pins, and white roses.
But there is still a lot of work to be done before real change can occur. For one, social media has given a voice for the numerous victims of sexual harassment and abuse. In a world that seems bleaker by the days, where stories of misogyny and questioning of victims seem commonplace, this movement has slowly started the conversation. Males grow up in a world where hypermasculinity rules over the concerns of women. This makes the issue of what comes next very challenging.
To help answer this, I reached out to some St. John’s students willing to speak on what ought to come next. Nicole Lawrence, a junior, added that #MeToo was able to address the problems going on, but many victims did not have the means to speak out. However, she added that there needs to be a change in our dialogue in how we handle abuse conversations, to issues of accountability and unfortunate victim shaming.
From Lawrence’s personal experience, she was in that position before, and could be that person again, but that it requires self-love and support without question to heal. More needs to be done than just address not only hers but other victims own dehumanization. We must question why it is okay to vilify a victim for speaking out? Similarly, junior Sieta Leon added that the movement gave awareness, but that bigger conversations need to be held on how the media represents females and other victims regardless of gender or race.
Still, Hollywood has played a role in amplifying for better or worse the way that we view sexual assault. The question now is not what comes next or what is there to be done, but rather what more is to be done; something that echoes in the Vincentian community here at St. John’s. So what comes next? As a history student here at SJU it is daunting to explain the reality that history does not repeat itself, but echoes. Being that Black History Month is nearly here I can’t help but think of the Civil Rights movement.
There, we saw not just awareness but active participation. I believe that active participation is the answer. Whether it is holding vigils here on campus, open discussions, to calling out everyday microaggressions, to simply supporting a victim, a friend. What does it mean to be aware if we do not act? That is what has to come next.