“Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?”
This question, tweeted by President Donald Trump on Sept. 21, has spurred yet another social media movement centered around women and their visibility.
#WhyIDidntReport was born from Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The details of this case are heavily displayed both online and in print for those unfamiliar with the proceedings.
The heart of this matter doesn’t lie in the courtroom, however. It beats in those who are raising their voices across platforms to take a stand, often for the first time.
After President Trump tweeted in defense of Kavanaugh, actress and activist Alyssa Milano responded in kind, using the already active #MeToo to identify herself as another individual who did not come forward immediately after she was assaulted. She proceeded to call out to other survivors who have not yet been heard to further illustrate how many respond to these tragedies with silence.
Thus #WhyIDidntReport was born. Individuals of incredible strength are now coming forward. Their reign of silence is ending.
You may be asking, why now? How could anyone keep quiet for all that time?
Maybe because when actress Ashley Judd refused sexual advances from Harvey Weinstein in 1997, she was blacklisted in film and removed from the cast list of “The Lord of the Rings” by director Peter Jackson, who was advised to do so by Weinstein’s company Miramax.
Or because when Brock Turner sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on Stanford University’s campus, he received only six months in county jail. His father wrote a letter pleading his son’s life not be ruined due to “20 minutes of action”.
People rallied to protect the athlete and placed blame on college drinking culture. The 23-year-old woman who could not give consent was painted as an irresponsible party girl.
On Sept. 27, Ford gave an opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which she addressed her silence. She cites fear as being the driving reason she did not come forward when she was 15.
“My greatest fears have been realized – and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable,” Ford said when discussing the aftermath of her accusation.
The treatment she has received mirrors that which women like Judd and the Stanford victim have been forced to endure. Reports of sexual assault are most often greeted with sneers of disbelief, harsh repercussions, like job loss or societal defamation, or a general disregard.
If you knew nothing would get better, would you step forward?
Social movements like #MeToo or #TimesUp are now forcing the media to address the silence surrounding sexual assault and harassment. The stigma surrounding these topics is being pushed to the forefront of our minds. The world is being forced to confront demons many have been drowning due to fear for far too long.
The public eye is now on women like Ford and Milano, who are finding the courage to step forward and demonstrating to others they can follow suit. We are finally hearing the stories of those who have been plagued by these tragedies as survivors begin to find their strength in numbers.
Though we haven’t remedied the backlash many face after sharing their stories, #WhyIDidntReport is another step in the direction of increasing visibility for those who have been affected.
They no longer have to feel obligated to fight this battle on their own. Those who could not come forward until today are doing so because of the growing community stepping up to help brace them for impact, whether it be on Twitter or in politics.
Supporters are showing up and survivors are speaking out. After all, there’s no expiration date on pain or injustice. If you look at the timestamp for taking a stand, it’s today.