The #MeToo movement has provided a platform for survivors to speak out against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It has also sparked a smaller movement, #MeTooK12, which addresses the issue within the education and school communities -- but has failed to see the same progress as the #MeToo movement until the recent media coverage of the contentious Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. The hearings reignited the debate about sexual assault within high school culture, generated new proposed legislation for handling sexual assault cases, and reinforced the need for resources for K-12 survivors.
“While young women are standing up and saying no more, our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves and often re-victimized in the process.”
#MeTooK12 inspired children to come forward with stories of sexual assault and questioned the effectiveness of Title IX protections for victims. The movement has now motivated a Maryland state legislator to propose a law requiring sexual consent to be taught in schools, with four other states introducing similar bills.
Media coverage of the Kavanaugh hearings also gave the issue a nationally known name and the public a focal point to explore claims of sexual assault in the K-12 generation. One school in San Francisco recently had a teach-in about Anita Hill. Calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline increased more than 200% on the day of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing. And many survivors were able to relate to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s experience at 15 and shared similar stories through the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport after President Trump questioned why Ford didn’t file charges with law enforcement authorities after her alleged sexual assault.
Ford, a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said the high school attack drastically altered her life: “The younger you are when these things happen, it can possibly have worse impact than when your brain is fully developed and you have better coping skills.”