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16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence

A Movement for Radical Healing

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender – based Violence Campaign runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day.

This year Soroptimist International of Whitefish is encouraging our community to talk about sexual harassment and assault by promoting the #MeToo movement.

Started in 1991 and organized by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute, the campaign is championed by thousands of schools, universities, governments, civic and service organizations around the world.

The color orange has been designated to observe this campaign by UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Me Too Campaign Whitefish SoroptimistOn Saturday, November 25 between 12:30 – 2 :00, members of our club will stand with our 16 orange female silhouettes on Whitefish intersections along Central Avenue. Each silhouette will be wearing a #MeToo button and will have extra buttons for women to take and wear themselves with the message ,

“ You do not have to share your story, but wearing this button may empower someone else to tell you theirs. ”

They will also be directed to the blog area of our website where they can share their story or offer support to others that do. The silhouettes will then be distributed around town for the remainder of the 16 Day Campaign.

#MeToo – Empowerment through Empathy

The hashtag #MeToo movement was recently initiated by actor Alyssa Milano in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegation. She tweeted a call on October 15 to survivors of sexual harassment and assault to use the hashtag #MeToo after reading a post on Facebook.

The response went viral across social media sites , with 4.7 million people engaged with “ Me Too ” posts within the first 24 hours on Facebook alone. But the Me Too movement was actually started over a decade ago by black activist Tarana Burke.

In an interview with Ebony magazine, Burke explained,

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

In 1997, Burke had met a young girl at a youth camp that attempted to tell her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. The story was too painful for Burke to hear so she cut her off and directed her to another counselor who could “help her better ” instead of exposing her own pain and simply saying, “me too ”.

Me Too became her grassroots movement to provide “ empowerment through empathy ” to survivors of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment that live in underprivileged communities that may not have access to crisis centers or counselors.

10 years later, Burke founded the non – profit, Just Be Inc., to support the health, wellbeing and wholeness of young women of color everywhere.

Victims of sexual harassment and assault have been silent too long.

Our society blames victims, excuses perpetrators thus holding victims in a silent cell with bars made of shame. In a recent New York times Op – Ed long distance swimmer Diana Nyad tells her story of sexual abuse by her swim coach when she was just 14.  At 21 she told her best friend from high school, recounting every “ heinous detail ”.

She writes:

 The relief was palpable. I wept. My friend cried with me, hugged me, took a long pause and said,

 ‘ Well, Diana, hold on to your hat because the same thing happened to me. ‘  

The same coach, same abuse, same shameful secret, another Me Too story.

Do you have a #MeToo story that you are ready to share?  Join us in this project.

We are here to listen; you are not alone.

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