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The impact of #MeToo on college campuses

Twelve years ago, Tarana Burke founded the me too. movement to help survivors of sexual violence, specifically among women of color in underprivileged communities. The purpose of the movement is to make sure survivors know they’re not alone in their journey from victim to survivor. The me too. movement has since then been revived and has started to become prevalent on college campuses and work environments.

In October 2017, the two-word hashtag #MeToo spread virally on social media following the sexual assault allegations against American film producer Harvey Weinstein. #MeToo became prevalent on social media after actress Alyssa Milano popularized the movement, encouraging women to spread the phrase to emphasize the magnitude of sexual assault cases. Fellow celebrities like Lady Gaga, Terry Crews, Ellen DeGeneres and other high-profile celebrities also responded.

In the month of October 2017 alone, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reported that its national helpline had a 21 percent increase in calls. According to The Guardian, RAINN Vice President of Communications Jodi Omear said the common denominator for almost every call was the #MeToo movement.

After two months of people stepping up and an increase in allegations, TIME Magazine awarded its Person of the Year 2017 to "The Silence Breakers - The Voices That Launched a Movement." Among these silence breakers were Alyssa Milano, Tarana Burke, Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd.

The TIME magazine cover featured women from different backgrounds, social statuses and occupations including a woman’s arm meant to signify both the anonymous victims who’ve spoken up and those who haven’t been able to come forward.

TIME magazine

TIME Magazine's Person of the Year - The Silence Breakers.

While women are considered the main target of sexual assault and harassment in these cases, it shouldn’t be forgotten that men, gender-nonconforming people and transgender people are also victims of sexual violence. No one is excluded from this issue.

The issues raised by #MeToo movement are strongly associated with college campuses now more than ever. The culture at universities already has a reputation for producing a fairly high amount of sexual assault incidents, reported and not reported.

According to the 2015 Association of American Universities (AAU) survey, 23.1 percent of undergraduate women experienced an “incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation.”

Even then, AAU’s statistics can’t be completely accurate - the figures the association received only came from voluntary participants. Though the responses of 150,000 people across 27 campuses doesn't fully reflect reality, they do offer insight into what’s really going on in the world.

During Obama’s presidency, the issue of sexual violence and harassment on college campuses was quickly addressed. The culture of students getting drunk and sexually harassing someone at a party was quickly attracting more attention and required the Obama administration to find a way to reform it.

In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued the “Dear Colleague” letter, which enlarged college campuses’ views on sexual assault cases. The OCR argued sexual harassment interferes with the people’s education and college campuses should be responsible for creating the culture surrounding it.

According to Harvard University’s 2016-17 Title IX Office and Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) Joint Annual Report, the number of complaints rose by 65 percent between 2013 and 2017. Since 2014, the number of reports on college campuses has started to steadily increase, according to the Institute of Education Sciences.

Just like the Title IX protocols from Obama’s era, the #MeToo movement has given people the platform to speak up and come forward. It’s more important than ever to speak up to try and put a stop the the violence that continuously happens on college campuses.

Under Trump’s administration, meetings with survivors and “men’s rights” groups in order to discuss existing policies. On Sept. 22, 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the Department of Education will be revoking Title IX guidelines.

DeVos’ decision to revoke Title IX guidelines caused a major uproar on college campuses, leading to protests and major concerns about what will happen for future survivors of sexual assault. Her reasoning was, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is.”

Title IX Protests
Demonstrators protest Betsy DeVos' announcement of revoking Title IX policies on college campuses.

The #MeToo movement is important because it gives people the courage to speak up - this is particularly important on college campuses because of the fact that so many potential voices don't get heard because of the stigma around undergraduate women "asking for it" and "getting too drunk" for consent. Because of this, young women don't report what happened to them because they feel it's their fault.

The Title IX issue and #MeToo movement are almost parallel in the fact that they both call for a collective change, whether it's in the workplace or on college campuses. There needs to be a change in standards and an assessment on the culture of sexual violence.

If we start on the smaller scale to reform the issues of sexual assault in a way that doesn’t seem like we’re taking away survivors’ rights, it will allow for more room to work as a country and as people. The issue of sexual violence can’t be resolved overnight, but it shouldn’t take what seems like decades.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, hopefully there will be a trend in even more people speaking up. When more people speak up, each voice is amplified.

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