Thursday, October 28, 2021

Aly Raisman’s message to other #MeToo survivors: Use the #MeToo hashtag

One in five young women have been sexually assaulted by an adult, according to numerous statistics that have flooded the American media. In case you missed the breaking news: Aly Raisman went through sexual abuse at the hands of her coaches in 2013.

Raisman’s story is fresh; her claims are old. But it’s been a long road to having the impetus necessary to change the rules. The Greek swimmer, Olympic champion and actress explained to me, for example, why she used the hashtag #MeToo in her case and not #TimesUp or #MeToo. Her background:

I wanted to start using something that people would remember me by more than just “he said, she said.”

I started using that hashtag because I didn’t want people to remember my case as the first one, or maybe the last. I wanted them to remember my case as a revolution that happened because people came together, wrote down their stories and made change. That’s why I started using it.

At that time, sexual assault and rape and misconduct were being discussed in such a big way that it was becoming very normal to use the hashtag. It was a way to highlight the point that abuse and assault and battery were everywhere. What I saw happening the next day when I used the hashtag was other women using it, about abuse they had experienced. We put our names to what we experienced. We shared our stories, talked about the abuse we experienced and said, “This happened to me, I have a story that is like yours.” That’s what I wanted to do.

It was amazing that there were other people using it who felt the same way. That was really empowering. By the end of the week, the hashtag was on Twitter, retweeted by people I didn’t even know, people who couldn’t even read English, posting their names and experiences. I felt like everybody had a story about abuse or assault and this was a great way to share it.

I didn’t want people to remember my case as the first one, or maybe the last. I wanted them to remember my case as a revolution that happened because people came together, wrote down their stories and made change. That’s why I started using it.

I felt empowered. I felt like we had started something. I thought, there are so many of us out there who have experienced this, this was not a one-off. Our movement has grown. I think at the time, the idea of sharing your experiences was completely foreign to the celebrities and people in the media who I knew and respected. We all had this internalized feeling that nobody was going to believe us. They thought, “Yeah, that is messed up, that happened to you. That is not okay.” They didn’t think anyone else had been through that, so we were invisible.

That’s why I always referred to myself as “Victim 1.” I didn’t want people to remember my case as the first one, or maybe the last. I wanted them to remember my case as a revolution that happened because people came together, wrote down their stories and made change. That’s why I started using it. It meant a lot to me that my case had the power to change people’s perspectives and open up a conversation.

This article was written by Ashley Haines Mills, Washington Post.

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