Harvey Weinstein, Ben Affleck, James Toback, Kevin Spacey, George H.W. Bush, Andy Dick, Terry Richardson, Ed Westwick and Louis C.K. are only a handful of men who are in the spotlight due to accusations of sexual misconduct. Since Oct. 5, allegations have arisen almost daily. At least 45 high profile men have been accused, and the list is still growing.
With numbers rising, women responded in mid-October with a call for solidarity. The hashtag #MeToo surfaced and survivors of sexual assault worldwide began posting the hashtag on various social media platforms attempting to portray the vastness of the problem.
A Green Dot poster featuring a quote by Angela Davis.
The immense response from Seattle U students using #MeToo highlights the impact of sexual misconduct at this institution. As the actions of powerful men in the entertainment industry are brought to light, many are drawing parallels to Seattle U with the knowledge that sexual assault is extremely prevalent on college campuses.
Started by activist Tarana Burke more than 10 years ago, the general understanding of #MeToo is to give voice to survivors of assault in portraying how many face this problem and to create solidarity among the community of survivors.
When the media discuss sexual assault only in the context of celebrities, they create a distance that portrays the problem as one that occurs only in this situation. #MeToo is a visual representation of how many women are affected by sexual violence and harassment: an effort to combat this belief.
The men accused seem to be some of the first to face the consequences of their actions. Harvey Weinstein was fired from his company, Netflix cancelled “House of Cards” and dropped Kevin Spacey and HBO has cut ties with Louis C.K. and cancelled his upcoming film. Weinstein and Spacey are also under investigation for their crimes.
As time progresses, it seems likely that more accusations will come to light, and more of the celebrities that we know and love will fall from grace. News cycles end and the media change the subject, but many on Seattle University’s campus are still thinking about the issues of sexual assault among celebrities and how to take a stand. How are students responding in these issues’ wake?
Shelby Hackney, a double major in political science and humanities for teaching, said sexual misconduct is “often presented as a women’s issue, when it’s a human issue.”
Women are traditionally centered in conversations around sexual misconduct, though this may be because women are the ones bringing it up and having conversations.
Hackney continued, commenting on the taboo nature of these issues. “There’s not that many obvious spaces to talk about this,” she said. “The burden has historically been on survivors.”
Cameron Casey, psychology major, reflects on the discussions in his life. “I’ve mostly heard my friends who are women talk about it,” he said. “I feel like women are the first ones to initiate a discussion on it.”
Julia Rosenberg, criminal justice major, commented on the reason women are more involved in discussing issues of sexual misconduct.
“Women understand that it happens so much, and some guys are just being awakened to it or refusing to acknowledge that it exists,” Rosenburg said.
A difficult role to navigate in conversation is that of the survivor. As #MeToo spread, many survivors faced the dilemma of feeling compelled to join the movement, versus maintaining their privacy. One issue resulting from the conversation that Maggie Dunphy, a graduate student in the Masters in Teaching program, noted was the burden placed on survivors.
A Green Dot poster featuring a quote by Lily Tomlin.
“Eventually I got a little frustrated about how it was putting [the burden] on survivors of sexual assault and harassment to bring light to the issue, whereas people who are perhaps perpetrators of sexual assault got to fly under the radar,” she said.
Sexual assault is often made public due to the status of the perpetrator, as is seen in the cases of Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Harvey Weinstein, etc., taking the focus off of the crime. It is difficult for survivors to navigate their role in the conversation when they are the most affected by sexual assault and harassment, yet they are not centered in discussions.
“It’s shifting the paradigm to look at it like a sexual assault issue instead of a celebrity issue,” Dunphy said. “But I don’t think we’ve gotten there. Our focus is a little bit off. To not cover it isn’t an option, but I think the media should be covering it in a different way.”
Though the victims of assault and harassment vary, men are typically the perpetrators. Men also hold a greater amount of privilege than women, giving them a unique voice in this situation. However, this position within the discussion makes it difficult to navigate where men fit into the conversations around sexual assault and violence against women.
Casey noted how he feels responsible in situations. “We have to talk to each other about this,” said Casey. “It’s important for us to talk to the men we’re most affiliated with in our lives, really solidifying what parts of it we aren’t talking about.”
Dunphy also emphasized that we all have huge roles in this conversation, but that men are often vacant in the discussions.
“In general, I think that men have the largest unfilled role in this conversation, and in the work, that needs to be done in dismantling rape culture,” Dunphy said.
It is the unique location of men and the absence from the conversation that led to the creation of a group called Wingmen on campus. A part of the Health and Wellness Crew (HAWC), Wingmen is a departmental organization working to change the culture of sexual misconduct and sexual violence by engaging men. Hamachek spoke to the need for the creation of the group.
“Wingmen came out of a need to, in a unique way, work directly with men in their role related to violence prevention,” Hamachek said. “Because while we know that the targets of violence vary broadly, oftentimes men tend to be the perpetrators of this violence.”
Wingmen, along with Green Dot, another HAWC organization, are seen by many on campus as resources to turn to in leading these conversations. Due to the nature of #MeToo, the celebrity allegations and the recent Title IX changes coming from the Trump Administration, many students feel that Seattle U has a responsibility to respond in a more significant way than they are currently. Dunphy spoke to the university’s general response to sexual assault.
Ryan Hamachek, Director of Seattle University’s HAWC.
“There’s a lot of cleaning up of messes and polishing of reputations of certain students and of certain groups on campus,” Dunphy said. “As an institution, Seattle U essentially fails its students who are experiencing sexual assault. And that is not to say that networks like HAWC or Survivor Support Network are not doing incredible work, but they can’t do it alone. It’s not their responsibility to do it alone, and they don’t have the institutional power to provide justice for folks who have experienced sexual assault.”
Conversations are happening on campus among the student body. It is difficult for many to navigate the field of sexual assault and gendered violence because there aren’t many obvious places to talk about them. Through Green Dot and Wingmen, HAWC is working toward prevention, and Survivor Support Network is a resource for those who have experienced sexual assault. But at an administrative level, Seattle U is doing little to address the problem.
The Title IX office on campus released an official statement in early October, detailing new legal changes and emphasizing the university’s commitment to student safety. There has been no statement released regarding #MeToo or the string of allegations persisting in the media. Most professors are not addressing these topics in the classroom, and no new organizations have been formed.
As the weeks pass, accusations continue to arise, and the topic of sexual misconduct remains central throughout the media.
Rosenberg speaks to how students have already become accustomed to these stories, understanding that even as the allegations surface, the root problem does not go away.
“Every time anyone comes out I’m not shocked,” she said. “Of course it happens. Even if high-profile people are being called out, it’s still happening.”
The people who have always been talking about it are still talking about it, and even as students become accustomed to these events and begin to talk about them, Hamachek notes a discord in resulting action.
“There’s this weird moment for me, where I’m hearing about this stuff, and people’s concern about it in the media, but interestingly enough that concern isn’t translating to either shared conversation or shared action or working toward a solution in the way that I maybe would have anticipated it.”
While Seattle U students may not be jumping to immediate action, they are having conversations, which is a good start. Positive changes are occurring at higher levels.
The Senate recently approved mandatory sexual harassment training for all Senators and aides, and many of the accused are now facing criminal investigation.
Though the conversations that Seattle U students are having may seem like a small start, the ideas are reflected nationally and will likely result in more change in the future.
Rachel may be reached at