Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lori Perkins: #MeToo | Campaign & Book Review

Disclaimer: Before starting to read this post, I want to just warn you that it does heavily contain discussion of sexual abuse, assault and rape, which can be triggering to some. Please don't read if you feel that this post could upset or distress you.

"For me, this book is my way of putting my time and money where my mouth is. I gave up many nights of sleep putting it together, and my staff worked 'round the clock to get it to you in as short time as possible. The authors donated their pieces for free. Riverdale Avenue Books is offering the eBook for free on all platforms in the hope that it reaches as many people as possible. We want to make sure to reach people in the most permanent ways possible. Print is a little more expensive to produce, so we are offering the book at a cost (which means we sell it for the cost of printing and distribution, and we take no profit). So pass this book around. Share it with your sons, brothers, fathers, your daughters, sisters and mothers, your coworkers and friends. Read passages to them, if they won't read it for themselves. Leave it on the desk of someone who should know better. Help us make this movement more than a hashtag. If you do, we'll do a second and third and forth edition - until things change." - Lori Perkins, November 2017

So, unless you've been hiding under a rock, well away from social media you will be aware that in October of this year, the hashtag #MeToo was trending on various different platforms where people, especially women would come forward and tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault with the hope and ambitions to make a change. "The #MeToo social media hashtag, first coined more than ten years ago by Tarana Burke, exploded in October 2017, after a boost from Alyssa Milano, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein's fall. Its popularity demonstrates that lots of women - and some men - have experienced sexual harassment or assault, and are prepared to go public about it." The sudden movement was resurfaced just last month when Alyssa Milano (one of Weinstein's most vocal critics) wrote "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

In her book, Lori Perkins explains how "there are fine reasons to say #MeToo. Many people I respect have done so. Saying #MeToo supports others who need the courage to come forward. The great chorus of voices can help banish undeserved shame, fear, and isolation that many have lived with for too long. The sense of belonging to a tribe can benefit us here."

#MeToo is such an important movement of such serious topics that need to be addressed. "Within 24 hours of the #MeToo movement, more than 12 million Facebook posts, comments and reactions were made." I personally scrolled through a dozen posts from my own Facebook friends and it really makes you realise how big the scale of the issue is, you're constantly scrolling down your feed thinking 'not her too'. 

Lori Perkins decided that she needed to write a book that includes a bunch of collected and powerful essays of individuals, both men and women, talking through their experiences. Throughout the book, there were a few quotes that stuck in my head. The first being that "women remain silent because we know the statistics, we know that most cases won't make it to court, and those that do won't win." Over the years, I have met many different individuals who unfortunately have experiences of sexual abuse and this quote is very close to home. I have edged people close to me to involve the police and tried to build their courage up to disclose what happened to them only for months later, their cases to be dropped and no charges pressed leaving them with even more fear than they carried before. 

It is important to note that this book is written in America and therefore, all the stories came from American citizens with American statistics. We must remember that this is a worldwide issue and we must start talking. I did manage to find some important statistics of the UK whilst doing some research that I will leave below;

  • Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that's roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.
  • Almost half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year. 
  • 1 in 5 women aged 16 - 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police.
  • Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.
  • 31% of young women aged 18-24 report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood.
  • In 2012-13, 22,654 sexual offences against under 18s were reported to police in England and Wales with four out of five cases involving girls.
  • Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator.
  • 1 in 3 teenage girls in England has been pressured into doing something sexual by a partner.
  • A third of female students in the UK have experienced inappropriate touching or groping at university.
This is such an important topic and too many people are getting away with abusing innocent individuals. "Our bodies are not the problem" reads another statement within the book and is possibly one of the truest things I have ever read. Mark Radcliff wrote an essay within this book and gave such an important message aimed towards other men. "So the lesson for us men is simple: This is a problem that men have caused. So we can't expect women to fix it all on their own, even as brave and helpful as these posts are. And it's not enough for us men to just not assault women. We have to do more. Not just not be part of the problem, but actively be part of the solution." I thought that this was such a powerful message and everything that he has said is true. This hashtag and people telling their stories is not enough to make a change, we all have to work together spreading awareness and opening up, encouraging others to be brave enough to seek support and file reports on their assaults and working for a world where sexual abuse and harassment doesn't exist or is dramatically reduced. You can't wait for it to happen to your mother, daughter, niece, wife or friend for you to want to make a difference. We need to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In a different essay, Catherine Gigante-Brown explains how she believes that "I was only.." are the three most dangerous words in the English language, "I was only joking", "I was only trying to help", "I was only.." "No. You weren't. You only offer those weak excuses when you are caught. Yes means yes. No means no. It feels good to stand up to myself. For my rights. For my body. At 19, At 29. At 58. And I am still doing it with words as well as deeds. When will it stop? When we finally see each other as human beings. Period. Not by our sex. Not by our skin colour. Not by our religion. Just as people. People with feelings. Rights. Boundaries. People who deserve better. Respect. Kindness. Acceptance. It starts here. It starts now. It starts with us".

Overall, this is a very powerful and educational book. I would highly recommend giving it a read. It includes a whole bunch of passages from various different writers who explain their own personal stories of sexual harassment or abuse. It has 152 pages and is honestly the most inspiring book I have ever read. I gave it five out of five stars on Goodreads and would love to hear your feedback on what you thought of the book.

I have added into this post a guide (on the left) created by Vonny Leclerc who is a journalist and columnist for The National (a newpaper that supports an independent Scotland) and wrote an article featuring the #MeToo campaign before condensing it into a guide of Flirting vs Harassment and how to give genuine compliments.

This book was published on November 3rd 2017 and the eBook of '#MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means, and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again' can be found and downloaded for free on the iBooks App and here at the UK Amazon Kindle store (compatible with the free Kindle App) which also gives you the option to buy the £4.99 Paperback copy. Thank-you for NetGalley for sending me over a copy of the book.

"Let's get educated on sexual predators, and on our own vulnerabilities, so that we can help the collective movement towards a better world."

"We are not a mob. We are a movement."

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

The Guardian News Article: Women Worldwide Use Hashtag MeToo Against Sexual Harassment
Rape Crisis UK: Statistics
Refuge UK: Sexual Violence - The Facts
#MeToo: Lori Perkins: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means, and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again

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