Sexual assault and harassment are not the only silent epidemics for women.
By Mandy Meisner
Blogger | Public Relations | Community Investor | Alexandra House Volunteer
I thought carefully about posting #MeToo on my social media sites. Like most of the nation, I watched it dominate my feeds, sometimes with a deeply personal story, sometimes with generic copy, but it was everywhere. When it first hit, I thought it was strictly about sexual assault, and I was pained for my colleagues who shared this status. When I realized it encompasses sexual harassment, of which I would be shocked to learn of any woman over the age of 16 who hadn’t experienced unwanted and overt sexual comments or behavior, I understood the takeover.
I qualified to join the cause.
Still. I was hesitant to mark myself as part of a trendy movement—one that I absolutely support—without having a call to action. Without it, it just felt like an empty moment du jour to me. I understand the goal of #MeToo is not about activism, but instead about producing awareness on a mass scale and I’m very glad it succeeded. It needed to succeed.
Because for every woman that posted #MeToo (which represents only a percentage of the number of victims, not all women who experienced sexual assault and harassment posted), there are countless men on the other side. Men we love and live with every day; dads and husbands, brothers and boyfriends. I read several honest, hard posts from men, about their thoughts and support and responsibilities in this, and it was good.
But then what? Is it just a hashtag of yesterday? I wanted to do something more.
So I took my opportunity to post #MeToo and instead of sharing a personal story, I talked about a local and important organization, the Alexandra House because they have been empowering abused women for decades—and will continue to do so long after the buzz has died—providing services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. If you live in the Twin Cities, you may know it mostly for the women’s shelter*. For 40 years, Alexandra House has provided shelter for any woman in Anoka County experiencing domestic or sexual violence and has helped countless women and children find safety.
But this is only part of what they offer.
They also have extensive programs in (emergency) Hospital Advocacy, Legal Advocacy, Youth Advocacy (there are Youth Advocates in every high school in Anoka County), Elder Abuse, Therapy Services, and Follow Up Services. These outreach services can be the difference between a healthy, productive life and one lived in quiet terror, both mental and physical.
All services in any area are confidential and free of charge.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Approximately ten million people (predominantly women) will experience violence by an intimate partner every year. Victims and perpetrators live in the agreement of personal and family privacy which enables the cycle of abuse. Every 98 seconds, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Domestic and sexual violence affect those of all classes, genders, ethnicities, faith communities, races, sexual orientations, ages, and different abilities.
I have had the privilege to hear many stories from domestic violence survivors. The deep secrecy and shame that shroud this issue hides the true prevalence. Silence is the enabler. We can all be part of the solution.
And you don’t even need a hashtag.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE? A pattern of abusive behavior that is used by one person to gain or maintain power and control over another. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions, or threats of actions that influence another person.
WHAT IS SEXUAL VIOLENCE? The use of sexual actions and words that are unwanted by and/or harmful to another person. Some of these actions are defined as crimes by Minnesota statutes. Some experiences of sexual violence are hurtful violations of personal boundaries but may not rise to the level of a crime.
*About Alexandra House:
You can learn about Alexandra’s House services HERE. If you, or someone you know is in crisis, their 24-hour confidential helpline is 763-780-2330.
- Alexandra House supports everyone who is affected by domestic and sexual violence and abuse in later life – regardless of their gender identity and/or expression. They are a resource for victims and survivors of sexual violence in any form. They also offer support to friends and family of victim/survivors and other concerned persons.
- When men come to Alexandra House – and it does occur – they house them at a local hotel/motel and provide them with all the services they would receive in-shelter. This is because they do not (currently) have the separate living space which would be able to accommodate men.
- 71% of Alexandra House clients served are from Anoka County, 12% are from Hennepin County, 4% from Ramsey County and the remaining 13% are from other counties – and states.