#Me Too: A Community Response to Sexual Assault Overview
by Ann Warner on Dec 6, 2017
Last night, WREN was honored to collaborate with the Richland Library to host an event called “Me Too: A Community Response to Sexual Harassment.” I was so proud of this community – about 140 brave women and men came forward to participate in a conversation about how we can change our society for the better. It was a respectful, constructive, and courageous conversation.
Personally, I learned so much from the panelists – a discussion powerfully moderated by Cynthia Hardy.
- Malissa Burnette, an attorney with more than 40 years of experience in employment law and discrimination, schooled us all our legal rights as employees and our legal duties as employers, and reminded us that continual education is necessary to ensure that we are fulfilling our duties to promote a safe and respectful work environment.
- Shannon Nix of the Sexual Violence and Intervention Program at the University of South Carolina explained what is happening in the USC community to prevent and respond to sexual violence and assault on campus and highlighted the importance of prevention.
- Kayce Singletary of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands gave us insight into what survivors have to go through to report their experiences, and she explained how STSM is not only supporting survivors but is investing in prevention of sexual assault and harassment by working with parents, children, and teachers. She reminded us that prevention efforts must start when kids are young, and they must continue throughout our lives.
- And Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter reminded us that ultimately, this is all about power – people with the least power, including women and men who are socially or economically disenfranchised, are most vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment. And until we change those power dynamics in our institutions and our culture, particularly those that privilege men’s voices over women’s voices, we cannot change.
I also learned so much from the community members who bravely stood up to ask questions and share their own experiences. We talked about the sexual objectification of women, the abuse and assault of children, the role that men and boys play in changing our culture, the role of the public education system in South Carolina, the role of racism in perpetuating these circumstances, and how the workplace needs to change. The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission was there to offer resources and an avenue for reporting, social workers were on-site from the Richland Library and Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, and Ashley Thomas from the Hive Community Circle, as well as Nyomi Guzman from the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, were present to spark more in-depth conversation and provide themselves as resources to the audience.
While it has been difficult for many of us to confront the reality of just how widespread the experience of sexual assault and harassment is in our society, I left the event last night encouraged. Our voices are powerful. When we use our voices to stand up for ourselves and for each other, we can change the world for the better. We cannot stop now. We must continue to speak up, stand up, and demand better from ourselves and from our community.
Photo Credit: House of Harley Radio