Giving Compass’ Take:
• Monika Johnson Hostler and Moira O’Neil report that #MeToo and #TimesUp leaders are working to reframe sexual violence as a systemic problem in order to better address the root causes.
• How does an individual behavior narrative undermine the success of attempts to address sexual misconduct? What changes need to happen to achieve a cultural and systemic change?
The #MeToo hashtag has brought public awareness to the prevalence of sexual violence in ways that data alone has not accomplished. For years, advocates have rolled stark statistics off their tongues (one in five US women will be raped in her lifetime, another American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and so on)—with the expectation that these numbers would galvanize action. The #MeToo hashtag’s popularity has helped people grasp what they couldn’t from single data points: the sheer number of women and men who have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes.
Yet media coverage of #MeToo—and its focus on individuals, and celebrities in particular—doesn’t necessarily help people understand the problem’s systemic nature. Research conducted in 2010 by the FrameWorks Institute, with support from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, finds that people struggle to make this connection.
When researchers asked people to explain why sexual violence occurs, they talked about individuals’ internal motivations. They described sexual violence as the result of a perpetrator’s moral or psychological failing, and a “victim’s” inability to ensure her or his safety. Social context—and critically, inequity—didn’t enter the discussion.
To get to the root of the rot, Time’s Up is focusing on sexual violence in the workplace. This gives advocates space to widen the national conversation beyond individuals and explain how systems shape violence.
Read the full article about sexual assault as a systemic problem by Monika Johnson Hostler and Moira O’Neil at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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