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“#MeToo” campaign brings awareness for sexual violence

Recent allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have led to a growing social media campaign called, “#MeToo.”

Clients of Weinstein claim he sexually harassed them while they were working with him. Now, social media is taking a stand against sexual violence, including sexual harassment.

“Statistics show that one in four women will experience some kind of gender-based violence and that can include sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape, or domestic violence,” said Sarah O’Banion, executive director of Family Services Alliance in Pocatello.

FSA deals with victims of sexual violence, domestic violence and abuse.

O’Banion said while victims are more commonly women, it’s important to keep in mind that men can be victims too.

Since the Weinstein allegations deal with a workplace environment, we asked O’Banion about advice for handling sexual violence at work.

O’Banion said most companies have sexual violence/sexual harassment policies in place on how to handle those types of situations. So O’Banion said it’s good to know the policies and know your rights under them.

O’Banion said there’s always the option to report it to someone like management, human resources, or a co-worker you trust and feel comfortable with. But O’Banion said each case is different and so it’s best to work with an advocacy center or counselor like FSA. That way, O’Banion said, they can help you figure out the proper steps for your individual situation and how best to handle and/or cope with it.

O’Banion said watching out for co-workers, and others in general, is also great because sometimes it’s hard for people to speak up themselves.

“There’s a fair amount of blame that can happen to victims,” O’Banion said. “We hear statements like, ‘This person asked for it. This person dressed a certain way so they deserved it.’ That kind of language really puts the blame on the victim rather than the offender and so we can carry that with us and it can be really challenging to ask for help.”

One thing the “#MeToo” campaign has done is to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence.

A search on Twitter for #metoo brings up post after post after post – millions of people either sharing their own experiences or posting in support of those who have.

O’Banion said campaigns like #MeToo can be empowering because it’s unifying and it reminds victims that they’re not alone. O’Banion said with victims of sexual violence, support is very important.

“When someone tells you their story, the most important thing to do is to believe them,” O’Banion said. “And offer them resources as well. We’re not asking that everyone becomes a counselor for victims, just offer support and refer them to someone with that expertise. Because this is a crime that is not often talked about and there is so much guilt and shame that comes with this, being believed by the people you care about is invaluable.”

O’Banion said it’s important to remember that while the campaign can be a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily reflect everyone who struggles with sexual violence. Many won’t share their stories, and many don’t come forward for help. So O’Banion said it’s good to remember that even those who don’t share their stories are survivors of sexual violence and they’re all supported.

If you, or anyone, needs help at all contact FSA at 208-251-HELP. Advocates are available 24/7 and it’s free and confidential.

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