@metoomcoco: Students Speak Out Against Sexual Assault in MCPS

%28Picture+from+Shutterstock%2C+via+Taos+News%29

(Picture from Shutterstock, via Taos News)

by Naomi Tesfai

Just this past summer, over 350 sexual assault allegations were made in MCPS. Students are speaking out on their experiences with harassment on Instagram, using the platform @metoomoco. Dozens of brave victims have posted allegations with details of their dreadful ordeals in an effort to fight for change and justice. This account has been a voice for survivors and has guided them through the negative psychological impact that comes with their experience. 

They posted about the signs of PTSD associated with the assaults and what a survivor should do if they feel as though they are struggling with it. Among other supportive resources, the account also has advice on physical and emotional self-care steps and how to get therapeutic assistance. Those who are managing @metoomoco on Instagram have also included a “lesson on consent” to teach their viewers that “No” means “No” and ways to prevent the problem before it happens. The question is, what brought MCPS to this point?

The issue of sexual assault has a long and horrific history. People have used this form of violence to control others or satisfy their selfish pleasures. During slavery, Slave owners often raped African American women as a way of asserting their dominance. Later, women came forward in activism during the second wave of feminism, which started during the 1960s. Books such as Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” were published, and groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU) formed to spark change within institutions and to empower women. However, victims were still being silenced and blamed for the crimes committed against them. As a result, feminist activists, according to the Journal of Policy History, “employed a wide range of tactics, from public education and local protests to lobbying legislators at the state and federal level, seeking to change social norms as well as policy and institutions at multiple levels of government,” but the problem remained unsolved.

More recently, with the uprise of the “Me Too” movement, started by activist Tarana Burke, women have been increasingly raising awareness and working for change once again. In response, many advancements have taken place including the banning of nondisclosure agreements that cover up sexual harassment, the creation of the Times Up Legal Defence Fund to support victims, and financial restitution for survivors. Locally, alongside the county’s leaders, @metoomoco is urging victims to use the resources Montgomery County is providing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students. 

In the event that a student is assaulted, he or she can report the incident to his or her school administrator, who will begin an investigation under the Title IX/Sexual Harassment/Assault protocols. MCPS encourages students to also report incidents of sexual assault to the Montgomery County Police Department. MCPS has provided many other options for students to utilize, such as hotlines and counseling for victims (listed at the bottom of this page). In July, Superintendent Jack Smith sent out a message regarding sexual assault and harassment allegations. He started by informing readers of the measures already being taken, such as “mandatory training for all staff on sexual harassment, child abuse and neglect” and “instruction for all students on harassment and personal body safety”. To help create a secure and safe environment for students to surround themselves with, thirty workers split into four teams: communications, investigation, student support, and legal. They are working tirelessly to support victims in their fight for justice. MCPS is committed to prioritizing the concerns and needs of survivors in this fight.