The “Me Too” (or “#MeToo“) movement did not begin with Alyssa Milano, although it spread virally in October 2017 on social media after she helped demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, in the workplace. The phrase has long been used by social activist Tarana Burke to help child sexual abuse survivors realize they are not alone.
In no way do I wish to minimize the courage of sexual assault and harassment victims. I applaud how their adoption of the #MeToo tag is calling attention to the gross abuse of power and privilege that is now being recognized across the globe, thanks to their bravery. And I hope everyone witnessing this movement understands how victims of this kind of treatment are affected by it, in both the short and long term.
What I do want to make clear is that childhood sexual abuse survivors, who have experienced this same level of trauma or worse, at the hands of the most influential people in their lives, should not be overlooked or taken for granted. Think about how obviously painful and difficult it has been for the survivors of Larry Nasser to speak out. Now imagine how a child would feel contemplating speaking out about a parent, teacher, uncle, neighbor or priest? After all, aren’t children supposed to be seen, but NOT heard?
In New York State, the battle for survivors is being waged as a decade-long campaign to pass the Child Victims Act. In New York state, after a sexually abused child finds the strength and courage to identify their perpetrator, the law says it is too late. Victims have until their 23rd birthday to report sexual abuse they experienced as a minor, yet the average age someone comes to terms with sexual abuse is in their 40s.
Predators (who can be seen as sick people) and their enabling employers (who should be seen as callous, self-centered and greedy) only have to wait out a short window of time. They are then forever relieved of even the possibility of being held responsible, much less accountable, for their crimes against children.
Let us not forget to keep children in the forefront of the fight for safety and dignity, whether in the workplace, school, church or home. The children have paid and continue to pay the highest price, by far.