Sexual harassment is a problem that can affect women and men of all colors, sizes and orientations.
As a journalist and as a human being, I took notice as posts about #MeToo began flooding my social media feeds earlier this week.
The movement ignited with a rallying cry from celebrity Alyssa Milano, who tweeted on Sunday, "If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet."
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
The suggestion caught on, with women and men all over the world posting #MeToo. Some shared personal, intimate and heart-wrenching stories of their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault. This all comes in the wake of accusations from multiple women - including several current celebrities - that Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein harassed and molested women in the film industry over the years.
The conversation soon grew to include the hashtag #HimThough, an effort to turn the focus to the people who are committing the harassment and assault. Statistically, most reported cases involve men harassing women.
On Monday, a Facebook post from my friend Kevin Doherty caught my eye, about the responsibility men have to stand up for what's right.
"Have you ever cat-called a girl because you thought she was hot? Have you ever gotten inappropriately handsy with someone at the bar? Have you ever made a passing, sexually suggestive remark to one of your co-workers? Maybe you stood idly by while one of your friends did something to offend or harass," he wrote, in part.
Read his full post HERE.
I sat down with him on Thursday evening to talk about what prompted him to encourage men to take responsibility for their actions.
"Suddenly, it was like every other post was just, 'Me, too,' 'Me, too,' 'Me, too,' 'Me, too,'" he recalled. "I was immediately moved by this whole thing."
Then he started seeing some of his male friends, who he describes as "really good people," posting statuses in response to the #MeToo movement, like, "'I see you,' 'I believe you,' 'I'm with you,' and I thought to myself, 'That's great. Like, that's awesome. But why isn't anybody apologizing?' Like, isn't it time for men to take a little bit of ownership here and just kind of say, 'I'm sorry'?"
He says meaningful change requires individual responsibility on men's part, plus a culture shift.
"Men grow up with a certain idea of what being masculine is, and I think that we have to kind of dispel that rumor a little bit," he said. "Being masculine is not about a certain bravado that you carry around or, you know, how many girls you hooked up with. Being a man - being a real man - is knowing when to stop, knowing when to walk away, knowing how to respect others."
Beth Hassett is CEO of WEAVE, Sacramento County's primary provider of services to victims of domestic violence. She, too, encourages people to focus on men's roles in perpetrating as well as preventing sexual harassment and violence.
"We spend so much time using that passive language of, 'victims of domestic violence,' 'people who are abused,' and we don't focus where we should be: on the people who do harm to other people," she said. "We really need men to talk to each other, to pay attention to each other, to intervene when they see a friend or family member acting inappropriately, because silence makes victims feel like everybody else thinks it's all okay and normal."
She and Doherty both say that action is more powerful than words - even Doherty's own words.
"To truly stand in solidarity with women, we must own our past mistakes and move forward, teaching the next generation what it's like to be a real man," he wrote in his post. "Start by saying 'I'm sorry.' I know I am."
Again, sexual harassment and assault can happen to anybody, woman or man, and help is available to victims through agencies like WEAVE in Sacramento County.
Kevin's full post is HERE.