COLUMN: Is a hashtag the way to stop sexual harassment?

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The movemement #me too. It seems there’s not a paper, website or news broadcast where the hashtag isn’t mentioned at the moment.

It started being used in the aftermath of allegations made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano suggested women who have been the victim of sexual harassment shared their stories to demonstrate the scale of the issue.

Victims of sexual assault the world over have used the hashtag to spread the message that such behaviour is unacceptable and it has highlighted what a huge problem it actually is.

But is tweeting #metoo enough?

I applaud the movement and what it is trying to achieve but change won’t come via a hashtag alone.

Following up on these accusations is where the real difference will be made.

Speaking out is a difficult thing to do for a victim and a decision that is often not easily made.

Once the words are said (or in this case typed) they are real. There’s no escaping it.

My worry is that women who have been sexually harassed will stop there and so will their allegations.

Disappearing into the twittersphere hidden by those of famous ladies whose words will undoubtedly gain more attention and exposure.

Is outing an alleged abuser on a social network what we have now resorted to?

Does naming and shaming an alleged sexual criminal online constitute justice?

Hopefully the impact of the online campaign will be felt and seen by everyone, including those who are guilty of behaving in the ways which led to the hashtag being started.

These are stories that need to be heard, #me too was used almost a million times in 48 hours on Twitter and Facebook. There were 12 million reactions and comments in just 24 hours.

This isn’t just an online trend. This is real life.

Lots of people I know used the hashtag, people I would have no idea had encountered such behaviour.

Is that because sexual harassment ‘happens to everyone?’ Is it ‘just one of those things?’

Sadly, it seems that it pretty much does and pretty much is.

But it shouldn’t happen to everyone and when it does happen, it shouldn’t be dismissed as one of those things.

Sexual harassment needs to be reported.

The experiences of victims I know when making allegations to the police have always been positive.

They’ve been understanding, professional, caring, compassionate and determined to act on the information.

While I know not everyone has the same sort of experience when reporting such incidents officially, surely it is still the way to begin dealing with this.

The only way change will ever happen is when people see that this behaviour won’t be accepted and will be acted upon.

Then hopefully there won’t be another generation of #me too tweeters.