Op-Ed: Me. Too. Still.
To our readers,
Usually, on Friday afternoons, I try to give people a long weekend read. It’s something I learned to do while reading, and then working for, the New Haven Independent. We’ve had some good ones recently—pieces on Arts Awards winners Kevin Ewing and Diane Brown, as well as some community-focused stories that I encourage you to check out.
But that’s not what I’m doing this week. This week, I want to talk to you all about a project that I’m doing, for which I need the community’s help. It’s part journalism, part audio installation, part advocacy, and I hope it will work.
It starts last month, when a bunch of women started posting #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook. At the time the trend was ascribed to actress Alyssa Milano, who tweeted out “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.”
There was considerable momentum: Sexual allegations were mounting against Harvey Weinstein, and those were followed by a stream of similar charges against other men in Hollywood, and beyond. But #MeToo is a movement that goes back 10 years, to sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke, who has called healing a radical act in itself.
When the rash of #MeToo hit social media, it messed me up. In a way that is powerful, and necessary. I was sexually assaulted my junior year of college, just on the lip of the spring semester. The details are irrelevant because there’s nothing that would have made it okay.
When I opened up, what shocked me was how common the experience was. The more women I talked to, the more I realized that sexual assault and harassment was a universal, and near daily, experience. Not just in academia, in journalism, and in the nonprofit world, but everywhere. Business jobs and acting gigs. Art museums and architecture firms. Walking down Chapel Street, up Whalley Avenue, into long office hallways and by water coolers.
And then, I let it go. I kept it in a neatly wrapped package in a corner of my head; I think a lot of us did as a coping mechanism. Until earlier this week, as another new stream of complaints and comments began to mount, this time against U.S. Sen. Al Franken. I was finishing an article about something totally different when my phone buzzed. A friend of mine wanted to know if there was any sort of reporting out of sexual assault, harassment, and #MeToo in New Haven?
At the time, the answer was no. But I’d really like to change that. Earlier this week, I put out an open call for voicemails addressing harassment. Some women got in touch, to explain that they were interested in the project but wanted more anonymity. New Haven is a small town, they explained, and someone might recognize their voices.
So I, and The Arts Council of Greater New Haven more broadly, are retooling the project. We’ve put together a Google Form, where women can write their stories anonymously. Or, people can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, folks can still leave a voicemail by calling 203.747.8640. No one will pick up.
When we’ve reached a critical volume, I’ll be going into a studio record the stories with three women actors at WNHH Radio. No names, photos or identifying details. Just stories.
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