Almost a year has gone by since #MeToo spread rapidly through social media and eventually received global attention. The campaign, which was started in 2006 but gained popularity throughout 2017 and 2018, was meant to bring attention to ongoing sexual assault and harassment that goes on each day, especially in the workplace.
The last year has seen hints of social change about the ways in which we approach conversations about consent and matters of assault: Cosby was found guilty in the court of law on multiple counts of assault, Harvey Weinstein turned himself in and the Oscar’s dedicated much of its show to the issue.
#MeToo brought the conversation of assault and consent into the mainstream media, but a year of redefining rape culture has lead to the latest trending campaign: #WhyIDidntReport. #WhyIdidntReport succeeds where #MeToo failed by providing a clear and powerful platform dedicated solely to victims of rape in clear defiance of people in power.
What the #MeToo campaign has ultimately created is a society left questioning the concept of consent. But a careful society is far less productive than an informed one, which is what makes #WhyIDidntReport so important.
The hashtag first emerged on twitter Friday morning in response to a tweet from President Trump, claiming he had “no doubt” Ford would have reported being raped by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh three decades prior if it had actually happened.
Ford is trying to protect the U.S. from putting an alleged rapist on the Supreme Court, and yet the backlash she is receiving reflects a larger issue at hand: Can a claim of rape uphold years after it occured, and what is stopping so many from coming forward with their stories?
2 out of 3 sexual assaults are never reported. Might have something to do with the fact that for every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free. And the fact that men in power make statements like this one. https://t.co/IHw3BfM2la
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) September 21, 2018
Since then, the hashtag has had almost 38,000 posts and has news outlets talking. Not only has it brought much needed attention to rape culture, since showing up on twitter, Ford has agreed to share her story in court.
“Dr. Ford accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” Ford’s attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks wrote.
Similar to the #MeToo campaign, the multitude of stories shared by victims of rape provides a powerful common platform for survivors of rape, but #WhyIDidntReport also gives other insight into their thinking.
Ethan Sacks of NBC writes, “The call to arms inspired a deluge of other survivors to contribute their own emotionally devastating accounts of why they didn’t go to the authorities in the immediate aftermath of their assaults.”
Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, has given us the rare chance of sharing stories through a platform that stretches far greater than ourselves. The act of sharing personal experiences with one another is emphasized, especially in the times of #MeToo and now #WhyIDidntReport, which the campaigns utilize well.
Alyssa Milano, who was one of the first to share her #MeToo experience over twitter, has used her voice to show solidarity with those posting #WhyIDidntReport, and furthermore has showed how the two hashtags can work together.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 21, 2018
Unfortunately, the banality of rape in America is real. It is far too common and a part of mainstream media. The new hashtag has the potential to create discussion of an issue that is often far too stigmatized to even bring up and what repercussions may result.
Unlike #Metoo, #WhyIDidntReport allows users of social media not to tip-toe around instances of consent. Instead, users leave little room to question detailed situations of rape and how the world around them attempted to systematically shut such claims down.
#WhyIDidntReport surpasses educating people; it surpasses matters of blame and consent. With this, #WhyIDidntReport has the potential to succeed in the ways that #MeToo failed by using mainstream media to incite change within rape culture and by extension the legal system that has made victims of rape so afraid to report their incidents when they actually occurred.