Following the Kavanaugh debate and the bright light it shined on sexual assault, many survivors and their allies are asking, “What’s next?” People For the American Way and PFAW’s African American Ministers In Action are among nearly 300 allied organizations who have made a #MeToo commitment to meaningfully addressing sexual violence and harassment in their many forms, and who are offering a possible path forward for both institutions and individuals. You can view our letter here. An abridged version appeared in The New York Times on October 26.
To those who seek a better world in the #MeToo era,
One year ago, the world changed forever.
For the first time in history, the ground shook with the mass disclosures of millions of individuals who revealed the sexual violence perpetrated against them by family members, bosses, co-workers, classmates, coaches, priests, strangers and others.
Empowered by visionary Tarana Burke’s ‘me too.’ Movement and responding to Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo call on social media, millions of survivors around the globe boldly shared their truths. We collectively mobilized to seek justice, care, and support for survivors, and began to articulate our dreams of a safer future for everyone.
This powerful support and storytelling have begun to change the way that survivors are heard and believed. It has created space for a once taboo issue to become one of the most widely discussed topics of all time.
As a result, many gains have been made in the past year, from accountability for individual perpetrators and enablers that seemed impossible only a year ago, to important state and local policy victories.
Even so, as we are reminded by Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation without a full and fair reckoning with the sexual violence allegations against him, much more work remains.
Our progress is not easy or uncontested; and while the measures and moments of accountability we have achieved are necessary, we recognize that they are not enough to create the lasting change we need and deserve.
As many reel from what we have heard and witnessed, we are also emboldened to continue the fight, by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, by Professor Anita Hill before her, and by the many others who have sacrificed by offering up their stories of trauma but have not received justice. We are forever grateful to the survivors who have shared their truths for the public good, so that we may secure a different future for our children. Your voices are the engine for change that we are recommitting to making.
With clear understanding that survivors of sexual violence and allies are central to building the ongoing solutions that this moment demands, a new ‘me too.’ Movement platform (www.metooMVMT.org) now will provide healing resources for individuals, connect those who are committed to interrupting sexual violence, and provide tools for tackling this work from the community level up.
These resources are necessary, because we must challenge ourselves, our communities, our workplaces, our schools, our institutions and our governments to meet the courage of survivors by enacting change in our policies, systems, institutions and culture to support survivors and address sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment. Our institutions must enact policies that promote safety and ensure that those who are in their care are free from harm.
To accomplish this, we pose the following challenges to our institutions both large and small and commit ourselves to being partners in this change:
- Federal and international policy reform. Lawmakers worldwide, including the U.S. Congress, must advance comprehensive reform to address sexual violence in its many forms, from child sexual abuse, to violence and other forms of sexual harassment at work, in schools, homes and in communities. Legal protections must ensure that all work is safe work, create greater transparency and accountability, and secure fair pay and treatment for those whose economic vulnerability puts them at greater risk of harassment and violence. Governments must also prioritize investing in programs and services to enable survivor healing and support.
- 20 states by 2020. By 2020, 20 states must pass laws to strengthen legal protections against sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment at work, in communities and every place where it occurs, consistent with the principles set out above, and with care to avoid policy responses that further criminalize people of color and other marginalized communities.
- 100 school districts across the country. Schools are often the first places where young people experience and/or report child sexual abuse, sexual harassment or gender-based violence. Schools have a critical role to play in responding to violence when it occurs—and equally important, to shifting education towards prevention. We call on 100 school districts across the country to demonstrate their leadership by:
- Implementing comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate, LGBTQAI-affirming sexual health education that addresses child sexual abuse, consent, sexual harassment, and dating violence
- Making a public commitment to institute protections for all young people in schools, including LGBTQAI and gender nonconforming young people, above and beyond the protections of Title IX
- Codifying options for survivor-centered and trauma-informed restorative approaches to justice in schools when harm is caused to help move towards collective accountability—rather than defaulting to punitive approaches to school discipline
- $300 million for healing and justice this year. We challenge philanthropy, including foundations, corporate donors, and individuals to seed $300 million in U.S. funding in the next 12 months, dedicated to investing in people and organizations that are addressing sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment throughout our culture and on all fronts, from grassroots organizing, to direct services, to culture shift work, to legal support and policy development in the United States. Further, we urge philanthropists, businesses, and individuals to seed similar funds across the world to address these needs.
People of good will across the world have a critical role to play as well:
- Vote to support survivors. Voters must use their own power at the ballot box to vote in leaders who champion safety and dignity for women and all survivors, and vote out those who do not.
- Organize. We call upon those fighting for social justice issues around the world to include sexual violence as a priority, by making clear the wide-ranging connections it has to issues from public health to mass incarceration. We urge you to organize in your communities and within your institutions so that there is a broad base of support for efforts to end sexual violence worldwide.
The stakes have always been high, but the world no longer has an excuse to ignore this crisis.
We cannot unsee what we have seen or unhear what we have heard.
Nor will we allow the progress that we have made subside with the passing news cycle, the tide of backlash, or the urgency of other issues.
We commit to push forward to meaningfully address sexual violence and harassment in their many forms. There is no other time but now. Join us.