Messages haven’t stopped pouring in to Aly Raposo’s inbox since #MeToo began trending on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram earlier this month.
The 23-year-old women’s rights and mental health advocate usually gets messages from people seeking information about counselling. The number of messages has skyrocketed in the last few weeks, she says, as people deal with the emotional fallout of seeing the hashtag.
“I have not seen anything good come out of this campaign on my end,” Raposo says.
On Oct. 15, actor Alyssa Milano tweeted out a call for anyone who has been “sexually harassed or assaulted” to post “me too” (a phrase Tarana Burke originally coined 10 years ago) to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” days after numerous actors accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
The phrase quickly spread across social media, sometimes accompanied by personal accounts of abuse and assaults.
“I immediately got angry,” Raposo says, mentioning she felt “traumatized” and put her phone away when she saw the hashtag. “Every time I scrolled, it was like a gut punch. I’d see a status, and it was a gut punch of the patriarchy winning.
“It’s almost ironic. The whole thing is about being sexually harassed or assaulted, which is going against consent, and at the same time, (people aren’t) necessarily consenting to read about it.”
In a recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report, “The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017,” Winnipeg ranked 17 out of 25 cities. During the five years preceding 2014, an estimated 14,363 sexual assaults and 25,462 incidents of intimate partner violence were recorded in Winnipeg.
Raposo acknowledges that #MeToo statuses may have helped people understand and put faces to these statistics, and that she applauds people who use the hashtag in a show of solidarity and empowerment.
“Social media campaigns can absolutely have an effect on the world,” she says. “(T) he end of the line is that not everybody finds solace in their pain.”
For some, Raposo says, seeing these statuses – as well as a list circling Facebook that names alleged abusers in Winnipeg – was more emotionally draining than empowering, especially for people who felt pressure to come forward and share their stories. Rose McGowan, one of the actors who accused Weinstein, says she’s felt “triggered” by seeing “the monster’s face everywhere” since the allegations surfaced.
Raposo says, instead of a public hashtag, she’d be much more supportive of a safe, private event where people could share their stories. For now, she’s directing the people who message her to the Sexual Assault Crisis Line.
While the United States-based Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network told The Guardian that they’ve seen a “record increase” in people reaching out to their helpline since the Weinstein allegations surfaced, Izzy Goluch, communications co-ordinator for Klinic Community Health, says a surge in calls hasn’t happened in Winnipeg.
“Though we have not closely analyzed the numbers, we have not seen an increase in the number of folks seeking counselling,” Goluch says.
She asks anyone who needs immediate crisis intervention to call Klinic’s 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 204-786-8631 in Winnipeg and 1-888-292-7565 toll-free throughout Manitoba.