Five years ago, Whitney lay crying on her bed, surrounded by broken glass. Bruises were forming from punches to her face. She had just been assaulted by her girlfriend.
Earlier that night, both women had joined their friends for a night of partying in West Hollywood.
“I'm sure she took something alongside her drinking,” said Whitney. “It was like her eyes were black. There was no person inside of her.”
When they were done at the bar, the couple invited their friends to come back to their house. Once there, her girlfriend began yelling at her. Whitney retreated to her bedroom, but her girlfriend followed her in and locked the door behind her. At that point, she became violent.
“She starts throwing things. There was glass everywhere. That’s when she starts hitting me,” she said. “In this fit of rage, she hit me a few times in the face.”
Whitney, whose real name has been withheld because she did not report the attack, said her girlfriend had been abusive leading up to that night - pushing and grabbing Whitney by the arm, controlling her financially and hurling insults and hurtful words. Until that night, there had been no sexual abuse.
“I'm on the bed, and that's when she pulls off my pants and starts fingering me,” Whitney said. “She's not punching me anymore but she's choking me. She's holding me down, and it hurt.”
Her screams caught the attention of her friends, who broke down the bedroom door and intervened. They made her girlfriend leave by threatening to call police. While the broken glass and the noise made it clear to her friends that something violent had happened, none of them told Whitney that they had witnessed the sexual assault. She did not report her assault, and no criminal charges were filed.
In October 2017, when stories of sexual assault punctuated by the #MeToo hashtag began appearing across social media platforms, Whitney was hesitant to participate. Ultimately, her desire for lesbian representation helped her make the choice.
“I didn't see a lot from the LGBT community,” she said. “It was all straight friends and colleagues. I felt like I needed to share that message.”
In a post on Instagram, she did not share identifying details. Alongside a photo of bras hanging out to dry on a fence, she shared a brief caption: “The scars of emotional abuse have caused me greater harm than those caused physically; and yet they are invisible. Though often the case, men are not the only culprits. In healing, #metoo.”
Whitney was glad to see light being shone on the issue by the flood of #MeToo tweets and Facebook and Instagram posts, but hoped for more.
“I thought, OK well, these are celebrities. This is a world that most women don't live in every day,” she said. “I was hoping that it would transcend that, into everyday women.”
Whitney is one of millions of LGBTQ-identifying people who have experienced sexual violence. Although sexual assault coverage focuses on straight, cisgender women, research shows that people who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to experience sexual violence than those who identify as heterosexual.
Sharing their stories comes with the additional challenge of facing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic beliefs about LGBTQ people and sexual violence. This is often enough to keep victims silent about their experiences.
Sexual violence is widely underreported, and LGBTQ victims are even less likely to report to law enforcement. When they do report, they are more likely to experience additional victimization from law enforcement, as well as difficulty navigating the court system if their case is prosecuted.
Survivors and activists alike are pushing for LGBTQ inclusivity, not only in the #MeToo movement, but in law enforcement and criminal justice services, health care access, and general conversations about sexual violence.
THE SCOPE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Every day, people experience sexual violence at alarming rates. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 91 percent of victims of rape and sexual assault are female.
The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that lesbian women reported levels of sexual violence almost equal to heterosexual women, and slightly higher partner violence rates. Gay men reported experiencing sexual violence at almost twice the rate of heterosexual men, and gay and heterosexual men reported similar levels of partner violence.
Of all populations, bisexual women face the highest rates of sexual violence. The NISVS found that nearly half of bisexual women had been raped in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 8 lesbian women and 1 in 6 heterosexual women. Bisexual women also reported higher rates of partner violence than lesbian and heterosexual women.
Transgender communities experience similarly high rates of assault. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 47 percent of transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. One in 10 respondents reported that they had been raped in the last year.
Research about sexual assault rates for LGBTQ people of color is extremely limited. Even the NISVS, one of few studies to examine sexual orientation as it relates to sexual assault, had predominantly white respondents. The U.S. Transgender Survey found that rates of sexual assault were higher for transgender people of color, with the highest rates among American Indian, multiracial, Middle Eastern, and black respondents.
Regardless of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity, “The vast majority of people who perpetrate sexual violence are men,” said Heron Greenesmith, researcher and policy advocate.
The NISVS found that 85.2 percent of lesbian women, 87.5 percent of bisexual women, 78.6 percent of gay men and 65.8 percent of bisexual men reported having only male perpetrators.
Alex Lorenzen, a marketing copy editor who lives in Claremont, identifies as bisexual. They also identify as nonbinary, meaning their gender identity is not exclusively masculine or feminine. They feel that the strict adherence to masculine gender norms was a big contributor to their male-perpetrated assault.
“It definitely felt like it was out of dominance,” they said. Lorenzen, who is 29, was sexually assaulted by a male friend at the age of 12.
“It was a, ‘you take off your clothes or I'll make you’ kind of thing,” said Lorenzen. They also said that the sexual assault was combined with verbal abuse and additional physical violence.
“I think there’s a general desire of male identifying people and masculine people to be in control and to be dominant and if they feel like they can't be, they find like the weakest person to take it out on,” they said. “In that case, I think that was me.”
Of course, women are also perpetrators of sexual violence. Whitney wanted her story out there precisely because her assailant was a woman.
“This does not only happen between men and women,” she said. “Just because it's happening between men and men and women and women does not make it any less important.”
As prevalent as it is, sexual violence in LGBTQ communities is widely misunderstood, so much so that its existence is often erased.
“One of the primary myths is that a person of the same gender cannot commit sexual violence against another person of the same gender, or that LGBTQ people cannot commit sexual violence against other LGBTQ people,” said Mieko Failey, director of legal services at The LGBTQ Center Long Beach.
This dismissal contributes to a general feeling of invisibility, especially if they don’t fit the expected profile of a victim. Lorenzen said they notice how gendered societal notions about what a victim “looks like” affect how people hear stories of sexual violence.
“I often hear people, when they talk about men or male-bodied people, say things like, “You can’t sexually assault him because he always wants [sex],” they said. “Stereotypes like that lead to it not being taken seriously.”
LGBTQ people are more likely to experience sexual violence.
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HOMOPHOBIA AND VULNERABILITY
Hayley Brooks, a writer who lives in Minneapolis, also worries about how stereotypes about gender and sexuality affect how others perceive her.
“That's always a fear of mine, that people won't think my story is a real story of sexual violence,” she said.
Brooks, who identifies as lesbian, was assaulted by a woman she met on the dating app Tinder. After messaging over the app one night, they agreed to meet up at a bar.
“I was 21 so I didn't really know my limit and she progressively got me more drunk,” she said. They left the bar that way, and Brooks got into her date’s car. Then, her date got violent.
“She tried choking me, and there was a lot of non-consensual touching and kissing,” she said. “It was really hard to get the thought out of my head that this is what I deserved for betraying God.”
Brooks attended an Evangelical Covenant Church when she was growing up. There, she said, she encountered her fair share of homophobia. Lessons learned during her time with the Christian denomination informed her internal monologue after her assault.
“I heard this every day growing up: that gay people were miserable and that they would never find love or happiness,” she said. “That’s why they have so much mental illness, so many suicide attempts, rapes, all that.”
“We see a lot of sexual assault survivors who feel totally responsible for the assault because of their sexual orientation,” said Susan Holt, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker. Holt manages the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s STOP Violence Program, which provides mental health services to LGBTQ victims of violence.
“They believe that because they identified as LGBT they were seeking to be abused,” she said.
As a result of the assault, Brooks developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which took its toll on her physically.
“I ended up losing 25 pounds,” she said. “It took three years to get back to my normal weight.”
Today Brooks works at a Planned Parenthood, answering phones in their call center. Even now, she lives with the fallout of her experience.
“We get a fair number of people who call and say, “I was assaulted, and I need resources’,” she said. “Whenever I get one of those calls, I have to take a break, because those calls are always panicked. I recognize that panic, and my body can immediately return to it.”
“What we see the most [with assault victims] are symptoms that are consistent with PTSD,” said Holt.
In addition to the distressing memories, persistent fear, and changes in behavior that are hallmarks of the disorder, Holt said that, “with LGBT people, you frequently see an additional amount of shame.”
Repeated exposure to negative feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about homosexuality or gender non-conformity can cause internalized homophobia, as a person starts to believe those negative things about themselves. This can stunt recovery from a traumatic event like sexual assault.
“If someone has any degree of internalized homophobia, transphobia, or biphobia, and most people do to some degree, then the assault just serves to validate the negative feelings that they have about themselves and exacerbate the internalized homophobia,” said Holt. “That makes it even more difficult for that person to recognize that what happened was assault and to reach out for the appropriate kind of help.”
Coming out as a sexual assault survivor is difficult enough, but for some LGBTQ victims, like Brit Wigintton, the coming out is twofold.
Wigintton, a graduate arts journalism student at USC Annenberg, was raped just over a year ago. She met her rapist while attending classes at the Savannah College of Art & Design. One night after she graduated, she took her former classmate up on an offer to go out. After drinks and dancing, they went back to his house for what started out as consensual sex.
“At one point I told him to stop, and I don't know if he just didn't hear me, but he didn’t stop,” she said.
He pressured her for anal sex. She said no multiple times. He penetrated her anyway.
“I just totally disassociated,” she said. “I couldn't really tell what happened. But I started bleeding the next day, so I knew ‘Oh, this is bad.’”
Wigintton identifies as queer, and at the time of her assault, she was in an open, long-distance relationship with a woman. Telling her story meant also having to reveal her identity.
“If I tell someone, I don’t know if they're going to paint me in a certain light,” she said. “I feel like they wouldn't take [the assault] as seriously with all of those variables being accounted for.”
Susan Holt sees this play out in her practice. “Violence against the LGBT community, particularly sexual assault, has often been called a double closet,” she said. “In order to get help, some people have a difficult time considering that they need to report first and foremost that they identify as LGBT.”
Kim Kaletsky, a queer essayist, said that the same principle applies not only for people who identify as nonbinary, but for those sharing their stories in a public forum, like #MeToo participants.
“In addition to opening up and being vulnerable about what happened, you have to also be vulnerable about your gender identity in a way that maybe you don't want to be in social media spaces,” Kaletsky said. “Not only are you feeling the fear of judgment about what happened to you, or that you're going be blamed for what happened to you, you're also feeling the fear of judgment about your gender identity.”
LIMITED ACCESS TO CARE
Prejudice against LGBTQ people also affects victims’ access to the care they need in the aftermath.
“One of the primary differences for LGBTQ folks who are attempting to access resources is the barrier of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” said Failey.
“When we talk about sexual violence and domestic violence in the LGBT community, we're talking about things that occur within the larger context of societal homophobia, transphobia, bi phobia, et cetera,” said Holt. “The institutional components of all of those need to be factored into the intervention.”
Holt said that LGBTQ victims have tended to seek help from mental health providers first, as it is perceived as a less threatening option than involving the law. However, this can be just as ill-fitting an option as any.
“We see providers who have a lack of training and are not receiving the sort of technical assistance they need to be able to create inclusive and affirming spaces for LGBTQ folks,” said Failey.
In 2010, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and the National Center for Victims of Crime surveyed 648 domestic violence agencies, sexual assault centers, prosecutors’ offices, law enforcement agencies and child victim services across the country. They found that 94 percent of respondents said they were not serving LGBTQ survivors of IPV and sexual violence.
When the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized in 2013, it was amended to include general protections for LGBTQ individuals. The act’s definition of “underserved populations” now mentions sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibits VAWA-funded programs from turning away individuals on the basis of either or both those categories.
VAWA, which was first signed into law in 1994, provides funding for victim services in the United States through 25 grant programs. Funding for four of those programs are specified in legislation, and the remaining programs are under the discretion of the Office on Violence Against Women. One discretionary fund is allocated for outreach and services to underserved populations.
The demand for these services is great. In 2016, the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported that “the majority of LGBTQ survivors sought advocacy services that focused on accessing legal services, housing, and mental health support, as well as resources around safety planning.”
Even if a survivor is able to access mental health services, they still may not receive adequate care.
“There are a large number of differences that LGBT people experience once they've been sexually assaulted,” said Holt. “If someone who's providing services to that person is not aware of those factors, the actual intervention or treatment can be damaging or harmful.”
Holt said that many times a patient will go to a clinic or practitioner and find that a provider will not know how to address them, they will be assumed to be heterosexual, or that there are simply no references to LGBTQ identity in the course of their treatment.
“It's treated as a very invisible problem,” she said.
A bad experience with a provider can prevent victims from seeking out much-needed care in the future.
“If they encounter a service provider who in any way re-victimizes them, they are less apt to reach out for help a second time,” said Holt.
RAINN estimates that across the nation, two out of three sexual assaults go unreported.
According to the United States Department of Justice, of the sexual violence crimes that were not reported to police from 2005-2010, 20 percent of victims did not report because they feared retaliation, 13 percent believed the police would not do anything to help, 8 percent believed it was not important enough to report and 7 percent did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble.
“We live in a society where often we blame victims,” said Terra Slavin, deputy director of the Policy and Community Building Department at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “It can make survivors of sexual violence really vulnerable, and less likely to report their experiences.”
Whitney was worried about how the news would affect her assailant’s family.
“I love her family. They're good people,” she said. “I would never want to cause that kind of pain.”
Alex Lorenzen did not report their sexual assault because they didn’t believe it was a serious enough offense.
“I really just brushed it off and swept it under the rug of my consciousness,” they said.
Hayley Brooks didn’t feel equipped to endure another traumatizing process.
“I’d have to relive a lot of it, and I just didn’t have the energy for that,” she said.
Brit Wigintton didn’t report because she wasn’t able to immediately process what had happened to her.
“I watch SVU, I know how it goes: you're supposed to get a rape kit within the first 24 hours,” she said. “I didn't do that because I didn't think that I had gotten raped.”
Noah Michelson, editorial director of HuffPost Personal and creator of Huffpost Queer voices, didn’t feel safe going to authorities after he was raped.
“We’re already suspicious of law enforcement because of the way we’ve been treated historically,” he said.
WHEN REPORTING IS RARE
The West Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is positioned on the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards. The building, which opened in 1957, is surrounded by bars, clubs and trendy restaurants, many bearing the iconic rainbow pride flag. In the midst of it all, the station has been dealing with an increasing number of victims of sex crimes.
“We get a significant amount of sexual assault crimes,” Detective Bureau Sgt. Jeffrey Bishop said. “It's definitely on the rise.”
The amount that is known to the station is just a fraction of what goes on around them. The FBI’s Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2017 shows that 1,212 rapes were reported to law enforcement in the city of Los Angeles, a 3 percent increase from 2016.
“It would be fair to say that a lot of our victims are straight females,” said Bishop. “We very rarely will have a male come in that's been sexually assaulted or raped. Although it has happened, it's very few.”
Straight women are not the only ones targeted by predators.
“We do get gay females that are raped by men,” Bishop said. “To a man they don't see gay or straight. The assailant sees one thing, and that's the female in front of them.”
Regardless of the victim’s gender, detectives said that the response is the same.
“We respond to every domestic violence call, whether it's man/woman, woman/woman, man/man. No matter what it is, we take those calls seriously,” said Detective Bureau Sgt. Frank Diana. “We don't want to be insensitive, so we have to understand their needs and figure out what they're comfortable with, male or female. Once we are able to communicate with the person, the victim, and learn how to refer to them, dealing with victims in general is very similar.”
In 2016, 39 percent of LGBTQ survivors in the United States reported interacting with law enforcement as a result of the intimate partner violence they experienced, according to the NCAVP report. These interactions range in scope from voluntary, such as filing a report with the police, or involuntary, such as a neighbor calling law enforcement.
Of the survivors who interacted with and reported their experience to law enforcement, 7 percent said that police were hostile and 12 percent said that police were indifferent. Survivors also reported experiencing verbal harassment and other hostile behaviors.
When assessing a crime scene, law enforcement has guidelines to follow.
“We have something that we refer to as a dominant aggressor,” said Diana. “If there's a male/female domestic violence incident and the female starts the domestic violence, maybe she pushes him or hits him, but he hauls off and puts some significant injuries on her, he will be the dominant aggressor and he would go to jail.”
To determine the dominant aggressor, responders look for clues. “We look at size, injuries stories, statements, witnesses…injuries are big, though,” Diana said. “If he says, ‘She hit me over the head with a bat’ and he's got no injuries and she's bleeding profusely, you know who the dominant aggressor is there.”
This method relies on a deputy’s ability to spot power differences, which can often be informed by heteronormative ideas.
“There is a perception that there could not be a power imbalance in a same-gender intimate relationship,” said Terra Slavin. That perception can have repercussions for the outcome of a police interaction.
“What we tend to see in the LGBTQ context is inappropriate first responder responses such as dual arrest or no arrest, as well as misplacement in couples counseling, mutual restraining orders, or no restraining orders,” said Failey.
Dual arrest, where law enforcement arrests both parties during a domestic violence call, is much more likely to occur for LGBTQ victims – in fact, a 2015 NCAVP study found that same gender couples are at least 10 times more likely to experience dual arrest than opposite gender couples.
“What we see, at least anecdotally, is that survivors in these situations, particularly around domestic violence, are too often the ones who are charged [with a crime],” said Slavin. “In terms of actual charges, we have a really hard time getting information. There’s just so little documentation and data collection around sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
The Los Angeles LGBT Center contributed numbers collected by their STOP Violence Program and their Domestic Violence Legal Advocacy Project to the 2016 NCAVP report. The number of LGBTQ intimate partner violence cases in the greater Los Angeles Area that were known to the Center rose from 441 cases in 2015 to 497 cases in 2016. Of those, 117 survivors reported to the police, and only 40 of their complaints were investigated by the police. The total number of incidents reported to police rose 18 percent from 2015, while the proportion of complaints investigated by police dropped 26 percent.
Diana said that there were no instances where the Sheriff’s Department would not look into a sexual assault or domestic violence case.
“We would investigate every one of them,” he said. “If we can determine that no crime was committed, but we feel that this thing needs to be documented, like if it was just a verbal altercation, we will write just a non-criminal domestic violence report to document an incident.”
Of the reports that were made by LGBTQ victims in the greater Los Angeles area in 2016, the abusive partner was arrested in 16 cases, the survivor was arrested in at least two cases, and no arrest was made in at least 11 cases.
“When responders are responding, they may not be accurately categorizing the type of violence that's occurring,” said Failey. “There's a lack of visibility for violence within and against LGBTQ communities, and often LGBTQ survivor stories are minimized, they're silenced, they're left untold.”
For crimes that are reported to the Sheriff’s Department, their protocol is cut and dried.
“Every domestic violence case, we refer to the District Attorney's Office. Across the board. Whether there's a suspect in custody or not,” said Bishop, who confirmed that this policy applies to sexual assault cases as well. “Now, what they do with it is up to the district attorney.”
A large number of domestic violence and sexual assault cases come into the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office every year. Prosecutors must determine whether to move forward with a case, weighing how likely a jury would be to convict.
“Successful prosecutions typically involve a combination of factors, such as the victim reporting the crime quickly to authorities, cooperative witnesses and the presence of physical evidence and DNA evidence,” a representative from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office wrote in an email. “Like all criminal cases, to file charges prosecutors must have sufficient credible evidence to prove the defendant is guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Crime statistics provided by the District Attorney’s Office showed that out of the 4,751 sex crimes cases filed with them in 2017, 3,580, or 75%, were declined or referred. In 2016, the percentage of dismissed cases was slightly lower at 70%.
If they determine that a case does not meet criteria for charging, “Prosecutors explain [to the victim] that based on a careful analysis of the evidence and the law the District Attorney’s Office would be unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the statement said. “Prosecutors also let victims know that their accounts may assist in the reopening of a case later if additional criminal allegations arise against their assailants or if new evidence surfaces.”
RAINN estimates that out of every 1,000 rapes that occur in the United States, only seven rapists will be convicted of a felony. The odds are already against a victim, and if they don’t fit heteronormative ideas of what assault looks like, that can also work against them. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can inform views about LGBTQ survivors, and those assumptions can seep into the courtroom and affect proceedings.
“You have to think about what sort of myths can come up for people when prosecuting a case, and how a jury is going to respond,” said Slavin. “Those kinds of myths are used against survivors in the larger criminal justice system. People are able to play off those myths from a defense standpoint.”
The District Attorney’s Office said that a victim or attacker’s sexuality does not affect decisions. The office’s legal policies manual states that “the race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, occupation, economic class or political association or position of the victim, witness or the accused” are all improper bases for charging.
Failey said that many of the victims they see at the Long Beach LGBTQ Center do not end up reporting to authorities or choosing to press charges. In those cases, they work to provide an alternative course of action that provides protection and support to a victim without entering the legal system.
“We navigate through systems with an LGBTQ-specific lens, and sometimes that means that we actually don't operate within traditional legal systems,” she said. “An example of this is that the focus of our work may be on creating an LGBTQ-specific safety plan and connecting folks with LGBTQ-specific resources.”
WORKING FOR CHANGE
Whether it’s from a family, a jury, a community, or the internet, sexual assault survivors often face criticism and judgement when sharing their experiences. This is amplified for LGBTQ survivors.
“There are so many negative associations that are put onto our community: that we’re pedophiles, that we’re hypersexual, that we don’t fall in love, that we’re bad for children,” said Noah Michelson. “There is the idea that bringing this up and trying to tackle it could also be one more way that we could be stigmatized by non-queer society.”
When #MeToo took off, Michelson took the opportunity to tell his story of sexual assault in a piece for HuffPost. Once he did, he began to receive messages from people who could relate.
“I think for them to have one other person who existed on this planet that they could email or DM on Twitter and say, ‘thank you for that’ and ‘this is what happened to me’…maybe that helped them get a little bit of relief from what they’ve been going through,” he said.
“Even though in my heart of hearts I knew I had been raped, it took a long time for me to admit that,” he said. “If you don’t hear a story that sounds like yours, you start to think maybe yours isn’t real, or isn’t legitimate, or isn’t valid.”
Kaletsky said that without LGBTQ victims represented in the movement, it can make them feel like there is not enough room for them.
“It's frustrating, as a nonbinary person, to want to say #MeToo, but also wonder is this the conversation for me?” they said. “Should I be quiet and sit back and let women have their moment, or should I say that nonbinary and trans people deal with the same thing?”
Mieko Failey said that not only is there room for these stories, it’s critical that they are represented.
“It’s so important to include LGBTQ folks in conversations about sexual violence and to use language that's inclusive so that we can raise visibility of the issue of violence within and against the LGBTQ communities,” said Failey.
“We do have all the makings to be an inclusive movement,” said Slavin. “The fundamentals are there, but so often the language is gendered in a way that is exclusive. It’s important to center people from under-served and disproportionately impacted communities, including LGBTQ communities.”
The online #MeToo movement has also been steering towards inclusivity. Tarana Burke has been vocal on Twitter about the fact that inclusivity is essential for the movement.
“…when it is said that certain groups are 'being left out' it means we are allowing the MEDIA to define the movement. The freedom that these words give mean that anyone can be included” Burke tweeted on March 21, 2018.
“This is a movement for and about survivors,” she continued. “If you let the mainstream media define who the ‘survivors’ are then we will always only hear about famous, white, cis-gendered women. But they don’t own this movement – we do. YOU DO. Survivors need to take ownership.”
While the original #MeToo hashtag remains the most widely used, Burke suggested the need to establish spinoffs, including #MeTooQueer.
We need #metooMilitary, #metooK12, #metooCSA, #metooONCampus, #metooTGNC, #metooQueer, #metooChurch, #metooBlKChurch, #metooMosque, #metooDisabled, #metooTrafficking, #metooSports, #metooSexWorkers, #metooAroundtheWay, #metooVixens, #metooDateRape, #metooAtWork and so forth...— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) March 22, 2018
Spinoff hashtags would provide an added level of nuance to the online conversation, something that Michelson would like to see.
“The very essence of #MeToo is in saying, ‘I also am part of this, and I want to tell my story too.’ Both because that will help liberate me, but also because maybe it will help liberate someone else,” he said.
Listening to the stories of other victims is ultimately what liberated Whitney. In the weeks following her assault, she decided to seek support in the form of Al-Anon meetings. The meetings provided her a safe place to work through what had happened.
“I think that for the first time I really healed. I don't think that I would have healed that way in therapy,” she said. “To be able to sit and listen to the abuse that others endured… it was my version of Me Too when I needed it.”
She hopes that in the future, #MeToo continues to grow to be more inclusive of LGBTQ communities.
“I hope that women and men that are in queer relationships are more comfortable coming forward and sharing in the same way that everyone else is,” she said. “Just because our sexuality is different doesn't mean that we're not experiencing the same trauma from the situations.”