#MeToo in the Valley, too

In the wake of Weinstein revelations, Valley residents cope with reality of sexual violence

  • Brie Martins of Northampton paints using watercolor Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park after talking about the national discussion underway on sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Anamika Sen of Amherst talks Oct. 21, 2017 on Main Street in Northampton regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Jess Ulman of Northampton, left, and Hannah Liquori of Amherst talk Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Dan Grey Northampton talks Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Brie Martins of Northampton paints using watercolor Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park after talking about the national discussion underway on sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Dan Grey Northampton talks Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Jess Ulman of Northampton, left, and Hannah Liquori of Amherst talk Saturday at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag #MeToo to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Eve Bogdanove of Greenfield, left, and Sarah Bankert of Easthampton talk Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Luke Bloomfield of Northampton talks Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Anamika Sen of Amherst talks Oct. 21, 2017 on Main Street in Northampton regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

  • Eve Bogdanove of Greenfield talks Oct. 21, 2017 at Pulaski Park regarding the national discussion underway about sexual harassment and assault that was most recently sparked by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the widespread use of the hashtag “Me Too” to share personal accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Gazette Staff/Sarah Crosby

@RebeccaMMullen
Published: 10/21/2017 8:36:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It can be difficult to reconcile the struggles of celebrities with those faced by neighbors, friends and family, but when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, it’s easy for the issue to hit close to home.

Following an investigation of film producer Harvey Weinstein, published by the New York Times Oct. 5, more than 30 women — including actresses Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Hampshire College alumna Lupita Nyong’o — have identified themselves as victims of his sexual abuse, ranging from harassment to rape.

Weinstein specifically denied Nyong’o’s accounts, according to a Washington Post story published Saturday, and has also denied “any allegations of nonconsensual sex.”

In response to the allegations, millions of people, most of them women or LGBTQ people, shared their own experiences of rape, sexual assault and harassment using the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, CBS reported last week.

“Anybody who has experienced sexual assault knows that it’s a common experience,” said University of Massachusetts Amherst student Hannah Liquori, sitting on the grass in Pulaski Park on Saturday. “Most people that I know that aren’t cis(gender) or hetero(sexual) men have experienced some form of that.”

Liquori was one of around a dozen Pioneer Valley residents who spoke to the Gazette Saturday afternoon regarding #MeToo and the Weinstein allegations. Each seemed to have complicated feelings about the issue. Some hoped that the hashtag would bring more attention to the prevalence of sexual assault. Others were wary of sharing their stories online.

“I don’t want to expose myself like that,” Liquori said. “I feel comfortable talking about my experiences with sexual assault but I don’t feel the need to tell all my followers.”

Neither Liquori nor her friend, Jess Ulman, posted a #MeToo status or tweet, but they were supportive of those who did. They said that for people who had not experienced sexual assault, hearing survivors’ stories might spur action.

“I think it’s a good kind of pressure,” said Ulman. “If you’re a man, you’re not thinking about how women are feeling 24/7.”

Social worker Eve Bogdanove watched her 6-year-old daughter, Ruby, climb on the play structure in the back of the park. Bogdanove said that the hashtag might help survivors of sexual assault and harassment to heal from their experiences, but it also frustrated her.

“My first reaction was that I was irate, because I feel like the onus to prove is always on survivors,” Bogdanove said.

Bogdanove, who lives in Greenfield, said she worries about Ruby growing up in a world that seems to only value women for their looks and sexuality. She has tried to raise her daughter to understand her own autonomy but it’s a constant struggle.

“I started her on that as soon as she was verbal and I pray it lasts through middle school,” Bogdanove said.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that one in five women and one in 71 men will experience rape at some point in their lifetime. Another study estimates that 65 percent of women have experienced street harassment. Many women say that number is closer to 100 percent.

The Massachusetts women speaking in solidarity with #MeToo were not limited to the Pioneer Valley. On Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” showed an interview with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other female colleagues, where the Massachusetts Democrat shared a story from when she was a “baby law professor.”

The Associated Press reports Warren saying a senior faculty member had asked her to stop by his office one day. When she did, he slammed the door and “lunged” for her. He then chased her around a desk, trying to get his hands on her.

She says she managed to flee and told only her best friend about it.

Warren says speaking out is a way to show solidarity and say it isn’t the victim’s fault.

Back in the Valley, Amy Brenton of Easthampton had a clear picture of who she considered to be at fault in the Weinstein situation, not mincing words in her indictment of the producer.

“I think he should be shot,” she said. “I was raped when I was 19 and I have a visceral reaction to it.”

Brenton and her friend Marie Lemoine sat on a bench near the bus stop in Pulaski Park. Both women said their experiences as survivors of rape and domestic abuse have haunted them for years and contributed to substance abuse problems.

“All this stuff is going on in Hollywood, I think it needs to get to the local level,” Brenton said. But, she said, survivors might be afraid of the repercussions if their story is not believed.

Brenton said she recently had to move out of her last living situation after a male housemate made inappropriate and intimidating advances to her.

Both women agreed on one thing: “Men need to solve the problem.”

Response by men

In light of the Weinstein allegations, many have been calling for men to take on a larger role in preventing sexual assault and harassment as the perpetrators of these crimes are overwhelmingly male.

In Northampton and Greenfield, “Moving Forward” groups counsel men who have committed acts of domestic violence.

Facilitator Gary Einsidler of Northampton has been working with those groups for decades, trying to combat what he sees as a culture of toxic masculinity that raises boys to be sexually aggressive. He says that men need to hold other men accountable for sexual assault and harassment.

“There is risk-taking involved and not everyone wants to do that,” Einsidler said. Further, he said that the way men are socialized as boys perpetuates violence against women, and that solving the problem won’t take place with individuals, but at the societal level – starting with how male children are raised.

“Boys are taught to be killers,” he said. “The culture needs to change, not just men.”


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