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What to Know If Seeing 'Me Too' on Your Facebook Feed Is Hard For You

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Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Sarah Schuster, The Mighty’s mental health editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.

It’s been almost two weeks since news of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long sexual harassment and assault of women became public. While high-profile cases like Weinstein’s, and other celebrity offenders such as Bill Cosby, make headlines for weeks, these allegations do more than just point to one man. They highlight a culture that excuses, protects and empowers men who harass, manipulate or hurt women for their own sexual gain. Pull the curtain back even further, and we’re met with the bare-boned reality that most women (if not all) have experienced some degree of sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime. In fact, every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.

On Sunday, to start a conversation in light of allegations against Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano asked people to post the phrase “me too” if they’ve ever experienced sexual assault or harassment. Her post read: “Me too. Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Within a day, her tweet and message took off. People everywhere, including myself, wrote “Me too” in a tweet or Facebook status. As I kept refreshing my timeline Sunday night, it was both inspiring and devastating to see more and more “me too” posts pop up with each scroll: friends from high school, random classmates in college, my mom. I was amazed by the power of it, but also so saddened by its necessity.

As important as these conversations are, they’re tiring — and can be tough to witness, no less participate in, if you’re still processing and recovering from your own experiences with sexual harassment or assault.

No matter what feelings come up for you as these conversations continue, and no matter where you’re personally at, here are some things you should remember.

1. Your story is yours. You don’t owe it to anyone.

We can’t pretend there isn’t an emotional and sometimes professional cost of outing yourself as a sexual assault or harassment survivor. It’s a lot to ask of people to be this vulnerable online. If you can’t or don’t want to post a status like this, that’s fine. Your story is your own, and you don’t owe it to anyone.

2. It’s OK to take a “screen break” if this conversation is triggering for you.

If the influx of sexual assault conversations on your timeline or in the news is too much for you, please, close your computer. Shut down those news alerts. Do something to take care of you. No amount of “being informed” is worth putting yourself through preventable grief. You get to address your trauma and your history on your own terms, not just because a hashtag is trending. Don’t feel guilty for unplugging and ignoring the conversation if that’s what you need to do.

And remember, if you’re struggling, there are resources available to you:

  • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
  • Call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673

3. The “scale” of what you went through doesn’t matter.

A few friends of mine commented when they shared their story that they weren’t sure if their experiences “counted.”

I’m here to tell you — your experience counts.

When it comes to what makes you uncomfortable, what violates you and what hurts you, there’s no such thing as “bad enough.” In fact, this unfair “trauma scale” is why so many stories get swept under the rug. Minimizing our experiences is part of the reason why only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police.

We’re taught it was just an unwanted advance, just a joke (“Stop being so uptight!), just a comment or just a quick squeeze. Forget the word “just.” Every story deserves to be heard.

4. Talking about your trauma privately “counts.”

Just because you don’t post something online doesn’t mean the work you do on your own isn’t important. Maybe this conversation inspired you to open up to a friend or now you want to address an experience you had at your next therapy session. Don’t discount all the great work you’ve been doing privately if you’re not yet ready to tell your story in public. While it’s harder (and more of a long shot) to make the troll-filled internet a safe space, we can do work to make our real life spaces safer. Define your boundaries, and don’t feel pressured to go beyond them if you’re not ready.

5. It’s OK to be angry.

It’s OK if you want to express your anger without having to provide your “take” on social issues. Sometimes you just want to be mad — and if this is how you feel, please, get mad. You’re allowed to feel angry when talking about or hearing stories related to systemic sexual abuse and harassment. Slam on the keyboard, scream to an angry song and most of all — don’t judge how you feel. You’re not dramatic for reacting emotionally to horrible things people have gone through.

6. You don’t have to identify as a woman to identify with other survivors.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 90 percent of adult rape victims are female, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to speak up if you don’t identify as a woman. Men, trans folk or people who are nonbinary can all be victims of sexual assault and harassment, and their stories also deserve to be heard.

7. You deserve support for what you went through.

Don’t let the conversation about sexual assault, and the weight of your own experiences, go away when this particular conversation fades. If you’re still struggling with something you went through, don’t let it go unaddressed. People who survive assault and harassment deserve support all of the time, not just when it’s in the headlines. Unless we keep talking, keep demanding change and keep insisting that there’s something fundamentally wrong with a culture that lets this happen, we’ll have this same conversation next time someone is “outed.”

We don’t want more people to speak out — we want fewer people who need to say “me too.”

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Originally published: October 17, 2017
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