Me Too and You: The Rise of a Movement
On Thursday, February 8th, we went to a City Club Youth Forum titled "#MeToo and You: The Rise of a Movement" consisting of City Club Youth Forum Council member Miss Rosalind Madorsky querying Mr. Alex Leslie, Senior Director of Educational Services at the "Cleveland Rape Crisis Center"; Commander James P. McPike, Commander of the Bureau of Special Investigations for the City of Cleveland; Ms. Mae Bennett, Domestic Violence Services Coordinator of "Jewish Family Service Association"; and Ms. Rachel Dissell, Reporter for "The Plain Dealer."
As Miss Harsha Jayaraman of the Youth Forum Council said in the course of her introduction, "in 2008, activist Tarana Burke began using the phrase 'Me Too' to express support for victims of sexual assault. This year, the phrase was catapulted into the mainstream when actress Alyssa Milano began using it as a hashtag to on Twitter to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem and to encourage women to speak out. And speak out they have-with astonishing results..."
When we first arrived at the City Club, we said "hello" to Ms. Constance Conner and Ms. Marci Lieber, Outreach Specialists for the "Cleveland Rape Crisis Center" who were tabling in the lobby. Before lunch, we visited with several people including Mr. Michael Madorsky whose daughter, Miss Rosalind Madorsky, was to act as moderator for the discussion. We also talked to Ms. Sarah Hastings who was wearing a "Hear Our Voice" button and was at the Women's Marches in both 2017 and 2018. We were pleased to see that she brought her young daughter here with her.
During lunch we shared a table with some unusually mature high school students from "Montessori High School" in University Circle and "Brookside High School" in Sheffield Lake. Among the these students was a young man named Alex who was born in the United States to parents who had immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union; he and his family take trips to Russia on occasion. Also at our table was Tejas who was born in India but came here when he was quite young; he grinned as he told us that he was very much a part of the U.S. culture but he encouraged his family to take him on vacations to India (which they have) so he could gain awareness about his background.
The discussion itself was a potent mixture of somberness and hope; the former because it was revealed that sexual assault and/or harassment is very much a part of our culture as demonstrated by the fact that at least one-third of women between the ages of 18-34 indicating that they have been harassed at the workplace. But, on the hopeful side, the panelists were in agreement that the "#MeToo" movement is putting the problem in proper focus and anticipate that its momentum will continue because it makes the victims aware that they are not alone and there are people out there (i.e. the organizations represented by the panelists) who are ready to advocate for them and help them obtain the legal and psychological resources necessary to overcome the trauma of what happened to them perhaps years ago.
What's more, recent exposure of inappropriate acts committed by celebrities has helped the public to steer away from the misconception that perpetrators are ominous figures; instead they are finally accepting the fact that people with kind, benevolent images are capable of doing the despicable.
In terms of communication with young people about their options regarding sexual abuse, Ms. Dissell was very well-informed about a recently passed Ohio law requiring that young people in middle school and high school be made aware of avenues open to them. Ms. Dissell and the other panelists encouraged both parents and students to petition the local schools to ensure that the law is being carried out and appropriate courses/training be instigated.
It was said that some groups were harder to reach than others so this prompted us to ask about outreach to immigrant groups. Thankfully, Commander McPike emphasized that anyone who came to him or his unit would receive aid without his/her immigration status even being asked. Mr. Leslie was quick to point out that perpetrators do tend to prey on the vulnerable which includes foreign-born people (many of whom are undocumented) who are in a new environment and are afraid to come forward thus his organization is actively involved with such groups as "Asian Services in Action."
Overall, the attitude of the panel was best expressed by Ms. Bennett when contended that the "#MeToo" movement was long overdue and that it is making progress. "When voices come together," she said, "powerful things happen and the system is shaken and turned upside down."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC