A NEW photography series featuring women revealing why they support the Me Too movement shows just how widespread sexual assault is in modern society – from home to work, and everywhere in between.
The images were taken this weekend in Michigan, Detroit, and feature fifteen different women of all ages and backgrounds revealing why the movement matters to them – and their own harrowing experiences of sexual assault.
Reuters Samantha Hanahentzen, 17, was assaulted by her teacher and told to keep quiet by the school in case they got sued
“When I saw the Me Too hashtag I was just coming to terms with my sexual assault.
“It happened when I was in middle school by one of my teachers. It took me a while to come forward with what had happened to me and then when I went to the administration I was told I didn’t have enough evidence to prove anything and I should just keep quiet about it because I and the school could be sued for slander if I went public with my experience.
“It was really silencing because when I was being assaulted it was that stereotypical line of ‘let’s keep this between me and you.’ And then when I found the courage to come out with out I was told again ‘let’s keep this quiet.’
“So for me too, it was a way to have a voice and it was a way for me to see that I’m not the only one that has gone through this and that women all around the world have all experienced the same thing. It was really unifying.”
Reuters Jennifer Childs, 39, was assaulted by a boss – but he wasn’t fired, she was told off
“When I was 30, I was sexually harassed by a boss. He was feeling me up in the car without my consent and it was one of those moments where I chose to speak up and it was really hard.
“I remember going to my female boss at the company and telling her about it and the only thing that they managed to do is that they took me off his team and then she proceeded to tell me that I was stupid for putting myself in that situation.
“Three years later he harassed somebody else and because there was a file they fired him.”
Reuters Jill Marklin, 40, is thankful that she has never been raped, but has experienced other forms of violence and intimidation
“I am a part of the Me Too movement like every other woman that I know, whether they recognise it or not. I starting recognising years ago that this is something I experience on an everyday basis, sometimes in very unconscious ways and there have been times in my life when it has been very conscious.
“I’m now able to talk about experiences that I didn’t realise were happening at the time and I want to be vocal about it because I feel that when you bring those dark things out into the light they don’t have any power anymore and that it will allow other people to bring that out too and to begin healing and to begin fighting back against those experiences.
“I was really lucky, if you want to call it lucky, that I never experienced rape, never experienced anything that violent.
“But it’s everyday fear, walking in the streets, being called at, not wanting to be called at.
“I’ve had different guys, just being out, trying to force me to dance with them, to touch them.
“I’ve had men call me a b***h or I had one man stomp on my foot in LA when I said I didn’t want to be around him, those are violent.
“Things that men never really have to think about but we, as women, are taught. When I was very young, my mom started telling me: ‘Be alert wherever you are. Make sure you carry your keys between your fingers…’ As women, it’s second nature now but it shouldn’t have to be.”
Reuters Laura Chapman spent 30 years experiencing assault
“I have been assaulted by men from a very young age and my Me Too story is almost my entire life up until about 30 and then I started ageing out of it.
“I feel like if we all talk about it, that’s how we can end it. The voice gives us power.”
Reuters Jenna Kreider, 24, says that the Me Too campaign has helped her see people close to her understand what she’s been through
“I was sexually assaulted twice in college; once by a boyfriend, once by a friend and it wasn’t something that I really talked about.
“I will talk about it if it’s something people ask about but I’m generally not open with it.
“This campaign really helped me to vocalise that with other people who I know have also gone through the same experience which is really great.”
Reuters Nancy Stalnaker, 35, is pleased that the movement is taking the shame from the victims to the perpetrators
“I think it is fantastic that women are deciding that the people who deserve the shame are not the victims of sexual assault but the perpetrators of sexual assault.
“The campaign has really helped people to feel that they are not alone.”
Reuters Kadi McDonald, 30, says that people are surprised that she has suffered a sexual assault
“I have been blessed with the courage to talk about my experiences and be able to talk about them and this campaign was really awesome to help others do that.
“The recognition from family and friends that it’s happening to people that they love; it’s happening to everyone. I’m the most basic person you’ll ever meet and so to have something so atrocious occur is very surprising for people.”
Reuters Siyobin Blanco, 23, spoke out about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and teen
“I was sexually abused as a child and all the way growing up and it took me a really long time to recognise that.
“When I saw this campaign I thought that it was really important that other people know that that’s something that exists, with children as well, so people can learn to recognise the signs and recognise it at a young age.”
Reuters Ashleigh Strange, 29, felt empowered by the Me Too hashtag and it gave her strength to speak out
“When I first saw the hashtags I didn’t think that it applied to me because I realise now that it’s easy to ignore when it’s happening to others and it’s almost easier to ignore when it’s happening to you because it’s just something that you don’t think that you’re big enough, you don’t think you’re strong enough.
“It’s weird to say that having a hashtag behind you gives you strength but it does; it’s weird but it does.”
Reuters Theresa Joy, 39, wants her daughter to grow up in a safer and more respectful world
She said: “Women have been taught that sexual harassment or anything sexual or abusive towards them is just a part of being a woman, it’s just something that we live with, that we accept that we have to push through or push down and go on with as a part of life.
“This is just another part of the women’s movement that we’re finally coming together and saying let’s lift each other up instead of pushing each other down.
“I think it’s changing the entire future for women that the younger generation are seeing this and saying ‘Wait. That guy shouldn’t be talking to me like that. I’m not going to let that happen to me in the club. He shouldn’t be touching me in this way…’.
“My daughter is 19 and I’m proud of what’s happening with the Me Too movement because I feel that it’s going to make her safer and stronger.
“Just to have that on a huge scale right now, that it’s not okay to be harassed and raped and abused.”
Reuters April Slusser, 24, has been inspired to volunteer for local charity groups
“My Me Too experience prompted me to get involved in local organisations to help disenfranchised women who have been sexually assaulted or victims of human trafficking or domestic violence.”
Reuters Maya Helferty, 25, had no idea how many people had experienced sexual assault – just like her
“I’ve always been aware that most women, if not all, and tons of other people experience sexual harassment and assault.
“I’ve always been really open that I’ve had those experiences throughout my life. But I didn’t realise how many other people didn’t realise and were not aware that there was such a large community of us.”
Reuters Brenda Siegel, 40, had an ‘aggressive’ experience with her son’s father
“I’ve had several Me Too experiences in my life but one was particularly difficult and aggressive in my relationship with my son’s father.
“I never really spoke out about it until two weeks ago and I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to not be holding that inside my body anymore.”
Reuters Pam Akerstrom, 63, said that she spent two decades not telling anyone – and she was pleased she could finally speak out
“I spent 20 years not telling anyone about it and I’m glad that there’s an opportunity for people to speak today.”
Reuters Heather Latzko, 22, wants to urge people to not let partners off lightly
“I want to remind everyone that rape is not the only form of sexual assault and just because you’re dating them or you’re married to them does not mean that it is not sexual assault.”
Millions of women across the world have used the #MeToo hashtag to stand in solidarity with women who have been victims of sexual assault.
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