A tribute to women, an invitation to allies

The following text was written within the framework of the project “Hommage aux fxmmes #metoo”. The idea behind this project is to offer a new voice to the #metoo movement, particularly directed towards denunciations by women of sexual assault or misconduct, although women are not the only ones to be victims of violence. sexual. The authors who will take part in the project will share with you their thoughts, opinions, observations as well as their support, love and wishes for the future for the cause of sexual violence. 

– Laurianne André, bachelor in sexology

In October 2017, the #metoo movement emerged following a string of accusations of unwanted sexual behavior and sexual assault against giants of the Hollywood industry. The trigger was when actress Alyssa Milano encouraged victims of assault and sexual harassment on Twitter to comment on Me too under her status to demonstrate the scale of the problem. In four days, 1.2 million #metoo tweets were created 1 . Unbeknownst to the world, however, the movement was invented in 2006 by African-American human rights activist Tarana Burke, who encouraged the empowerment of women through empathy ( me too ) 2. Thus, it is the rebirth of an international movement where #metoo will become a symbol of the empowerment of victims through mass denunciation.

One of the salient impacts of the #metoo events was to demonstrate the scale of the problem of violence based on sex or gender (hereafter VFSG) . What are VFSGs? These are violent acts committed by virtue of being a woman (e.g., unwanted sexual behavior, sexual assault, psychological and physical abuse, coercion, and forcible confinement) but not all of which are considered criminal 3, 4 . In Canada, 39% of women aged 15 and over experienced physical or sexual assault 3 , and 28% of violent crimes reported in 2016 were spousal violence, with 80% of victims being women 5 . The magnitude of these numbers suggests a systemic problem, rather than an individual one. Yet feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear of being publicly disclosed, fear of not being believed or blamed, and fear of retaliation from the abuser lead women not to report the acts. of violence committed against them to the authorities 6, 7 . It could also be due to the fact that many of the GBVs are not criminal acts, which makes it difficult to obtain justice. For example, in Canada in 2016, 20% of sexual assault complaints made to the police were deemed unfounded, and 14% in 2017 8.All of this adds to the burden that victims experience: they are at greater risk of developing mental health disorders such as depressive disorder, trauma or stress disorder (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder), tendencies suicidal, and substance abuse disorder 9 .

Given these challenges, victims prefer to turn to their friends and family for confidence. The reaction they receive is decisive . Positive reactions are linked to healthy coping and a better sense of control. On the contrary, negative reactions (eg victim blame) are linked to maladaptive coping (eg avoidance, social withdrawal) 10 . This is where the importance of #metoo takes on a societal level. For women, the strength lies in numbers: having finally broke the ground in silence, they now have the attention of the general public, which seems to listen and seriously consider their experience 11. The movement was mostly a source of positive reactions for women, who found a sense of belonging to a community, and who benefited from a safe space to reveal their difficult experiences 2 . This large-scale recognition is a validation of their suffering which has led to discussions. These discussions have not always been comfortable, or easy. Several women realized that they too had actually been sexually assaulted, even though they were unaware of it 6 , and several described feeling disgusted and enraged at the magnitude of the problem 11. In short, the #metoo movement seems to have been an opportunity for many to receive the support of other women who had also had similar experiences ( me too ), allowing them to put the blame on the aggressor, and not the victim. . However, we must not forget that despite its inclusive tone, it is mainly privileged women (white, in the middle class) who benefit from the support of #metoo 12 . I would like to reiterate the importance of supporting all women: Indigenous, black and colored, transgender, sex workers, those in precarious socioeconomic situations, and all those who cannot emancipate themselves.

Now, where are we going, and how do we turn this movement into cultural change? Women need allies. What is an ally? This is a person who is part of the dominant group and working with and for minority groups to eliminate systems that allow their oppression 13 . Men can become allies if they want to. However, there are challenges: men are often afraid of being frowned upon by their peers (e.g., being weak ), afraid of making the situation worse, or afraid of making women uncomfortable bringing up the subject 14. To help them on this journey, it is important that men are made aware of the issues of GBV (e.g. through testimonials from loved ones and education), have opportunities to participate in anti-violent groups. (p. ex. volunteer experience), are frequently exposed to people who have the same feminist attitudes, and encouraged to act 15 . What does that mean for you, the men who want to participate in the fight against violence against women? This means that it is important for you to continue to actively seek out anti-violence against women. It means that you must continue to surround yourself with allies and activists.It means that you must continue to ask yourself difficult questions about how you participated or continue to participate in this system of oppression. It means working to fix your mistakes. This means that you are going to have to put up with being uncomfortable, shaking things up, having difficult discussions, and perhaps losing people around you who continue to oppress despite everything. But above all it means to keep doing all this even when there are no women to hold you responsible. And for all this, the women say thank you, and welcome to the ranks.

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