San Dieguito Academy

#metoo brings awareness toward sexual harassment and assault

The increasing number of rape allegations toward director Harvey Weinstein caused celebrities to open up about their experiences with sexual harassment/assault in Hollywood by posting #metoo. These public figures who propelled the movement forward caused #Metoo to garner public interest, including in high school students.

According to newspaper accounts, 4.7 million people on Facebook and 500,000 people on Twitter declared #metoo within 24 hours of it being first posted. Students were among those who posted.

While many have posted #metoo on social media, San Dieguito Academy’s Counselor Ann Nebolon stressed the magnitude of sexual harassment/assault: “One in four girls are sexually abused by the age of 18 and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18. Then if you look around the school campus at all the kids here – oh my gosh! – that’s like hundreds! So, it’s happening everywhere! Even if our statistics might be a little lower than the national average, one in 10 is too many. One in 20 is too many. One in anything is too many.”

Nebolon added that many sexual abusers “will tell people they’re abusing that if you tell anyone something horrible will happen,” she said trying to enable students to further understand the issue. “It’s a weight, and it’s a burden, and it’s a pain, and it never goes away, and you have to deal with it.”

Despite such threats being commonly made on victims, Nebolon reassured students that since she began 20 years ago, she has had multiple victims of sexual assault/harassment seek her help annually, and each time, the situation has improved with a counselor’s help.

“It’s always had a good ending… because [victims] start feeling more confident about living through it and not having to keep a secret anymore,” she said.

Responses to the tag

Many students at SDA have voiced positive opinions on the hashtag campaign.

Senior Rachel Kaplan was among the supporters of the movement, believing it is especially pertinent because of the ways she believes rape culture is perpetuated. She said rape culture “is such a gigantic problem, and so many people who are just blaming women for being raped, based on what they’re wearing or anything else.”

She added that many individuals fail to realize that victims of sexual harassment/assault are “someone’s mom… someone’s sister …[and] someone’s friend. When you realize that it’s your mom, your sister or your friend, that’s when it gets real,” Kaplan said.

Mina Seif, senior, responded to the hashtag with respect toward those she feels have been brave enough to speak up.

“I think it’s really courageous… It’s really amazing that people can use social media to kind of find support from others. Otherwise it would have stayed silent, and you wouldn’t know how bad or prevalent it is in our society,” she said.

Nebolon said that for some, posting #metoo could give them a larger network of support: “It could also be a platform for people sharing their stories, which is good if they’re getting the right kind of therapeutic support that they might need.”

Although the #metoo movement has brought more awareness to the issue, it will not necessarily help with individual healing. Nebolon stressed that it is crucial for the teenagers who have been assaulted to come forward and talk with a trusted adult, such as a counselor or parent, to make sure that they get the help they need.

While #metoo has gained support from students, some have stated they are skeptical about the benefits of the movement, claiming that it does not have the potential to incite change on a societal level.

While sophomore Marley Jaoudi supports the movement, she does not feel it is enough.

“I appreciate the idea of it, but I also believe that men should be held more responsible… If men hear other men saying things that would classify as ‘locker room talk’ they should call them out on it. To make a change, it’s important for women to speak out, but men need to speak out too,” she said.

Kaplan, like Jaoudi, said #metoo is a good starting point, but she said there is far more to be done: “It’s not an end goal. It’s not actually accomplishing anything, but it is starting the conversation, and that conversation is something.”

This story was co-written by Nohemia Rosales, features editor for San Dieguito Academy’s newspaper, The Mustang.