Brainerd lakes area residents may now take part in #MeToo, a national movement that took off on social media in October when women came forward to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.
The #MeToo hashtag was born from the slew of sexual misconduct accusations leveled first at Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and then a number of other powerful men that followed, according to a Washington Post story. Advocates are seeing the movement as an opportunity to renew their push for constitutional protections against sexual discrimination.
The Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center is displaying a #MeToo board in front of its new location on 315 East River Road, Brainerd—the former Russell Herder building.
Anyone—man or woman—who has experienced sexual abuse or harassment is welcome to stop by and anonymously write a line or two about that experience, Ginny Rogers, LAPS executive director, said. Permanent markers will be provided or people can bring their own.
People have already begun signing the canvas sign. Messages start with #MeToo and include "Boyfriend," "Held against my will by an acquaintance," "Age 5, A true Warrior isn't immune to fear. She fights in spite of it," "At gymnastics practice" and "2-year-old, 5-year-old by dad, as a child and adult by friend and husband."
And there is plenty of space for more people to come sign the board.
Rogers said LAPS staff and volunteers are also making themselves available to offer a "listening ear" for anyone who wishes to come inside and share their story with someone in a safe, confidential environment. It is best to have an appointment, but walk-ins can often be accommodated as well, she said.
LAPS is open Monday through Thursday; and will be open until 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22.
LAPS is an organization that provides free, confidential help, both material and educational, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Services provided include among others pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound, options counseling, parenting education, DADS program and basic life skills classes, as well as baby equipment and maternity and baby clothing. The most recent service added for clients has been life coaching in the area of personal relationships.
Kaydi Johnson and Melody Evens of LAPS said staff were talking about the #MeToo movement and learned how many of them were sexually assaulted or harassed in their life, as well as the LAPS volunteers.
Johnson said they didn't want to have #MeToo messages on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, as actress Alyssa Milano did, as they wanted to allow people to remain anonymous if they wanted to.
"If we write something on Facebook, then people will want more information on what happened," Johnson said. "It's OK if people want to talk about it, but if they don't they can just come and sign the board."
"It's everywhere," Evans said of sexual assault and harassment. "Most of us have multiple stories to share. This is an opportunity to bring the community together and if people want to share their story we are here, we are here to listen. ... This has to stop."
According to a CNN story, Twitter confirmed #MeToo has been tweeted more than a half a million times. On Oct. 15, Milano wrote on Twitter: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." Embedded in her tweet: "Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
The tweet was retweeted 25,161 times and there were 53,464 likes.
And the number of allegations of sexual assault and harassment keep growing in the nation. State Sen. Dan Schoen is the latest public figure to fall to credible allegations of sexual harassment sweeping through Congress and the country's state capitols, prominent media companies and Hollywood studios, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday. Schoen's attorney confirmed he would officially retire his Senate seat at a news conference scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 22. U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was accused by two women of unwanted touching, for which he has apologized, the Tribune stated.