Media/Marketing Ethics & the #MeToo Movement

"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I can no longer accept." ~Angela Davis


I tend to err on the side of diplomacy...most of the time.

However, when it comes to topics I am deeply passionate about let's just say I'm not one to mince words. 

As a Licensed Therapist and Coach, a human rights advocate and activist, and as a survivor of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, I have a few thoughts to share about what I have been observing recently in our clinical community in response to the #MeToo movement and some fairly slimy marketing tactics:
 

  • I am disturbed to witness a segment of therapists using #MeToo to promote their own thinly veiled agendas and take advantage of a movement intended on ending sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

  • I am offended that there are therapists jumping in to the lime light and using #MeToo as a platform to peddle their books, hashtags, merchandise, or to add one more media source on their website and resumes as their primary motivation for speaking to the media.

  • I am dismayed by therapists who have never (thankfully) experienced sexual abuse, rape or sexual harassment, yet scramble on to every media outlet to pontificate, ego fence, debate, and lecture in order to forward their own agendas and feather their nest. 

  • I am appalled at the assumptions, name calling, gossip, lack of consideration, reduced empathy, and in fighting that I see happening on social media between professional colleagues with respect to the #MeToo movement. 

  • I am incensed to see a few (thankfully very few) opportunistic male therapits using the suffering of women as a platform to promote themselves in the guise of helping out the gals and the little ladies. We women, we survivors, welcome the support of our fellow men and fellow survivors - as long as your support is not a disguise for self promotion. Please give us a little credit to discern the difference.

  • I am outraged to see a handful of colleagues of all genders attempt to shame and shush those of us who have something to say about this movement. Or even worse, attempt to victim blame.

  • I am disappointed to see the passive aggressive memes, mean spirited hash tags, or links to "funny" articles mocking or minimizing the #MeToo movement. When the poster of said article, meme, or hashtag is criticized for their tone deaf post it is also disappointing, albeit predictable, when they react defensively. The usual response is that we survivors need to "lighten up, quit victim shopping, and/or get a sense of humor". Question: therapists do realize that one of the forms of rage is passive aggressive sarcasm, correct? And we all understand what privilege is, right? 

  •  I am repulsed to my core that once again the media is focusing their attention on the big flashy names of the famous abusers rather than directing attention to where the victims can find healing, support and hope. As a therapist who works with survivors of abuse and betrayal, as well as working with sexually compulsive men and women, I know the importance of supporting these offending individuals in receiving on going clinical support they need in order to heal. However, the predominate attention on the famous perpetrators has more to do with the media and the public at large fascination with the famous, and less to do with their actual healing. Suffice to say 30 days in an inpatient facility is one step in a very long road. There is no quick fix. 

  • Finally, I am royally pissed that mercenary colleagues think we cannot see right through their transparent attempts to yank the limelight off of the #MeToo movement and the brave survivors who are coming forward. Instead, there are those who are racing around attention grabbing and humble bragging on TV, radio, social media and in print.

What in the actual fuck is going on here people???

 Photo source: Deviant Art

Photo source: Deviant Art

Friends, can someone please help me understand what is happening in our clinical world? Has the narcissistic and competitive pull of social media, television, radio, podcasts and the stage become so intoxicating that we who are healers, we who are called to a higher standard, cannot hold a sacred space for the victim's voices to be heard without jumping in and drowning them out with our own need to be noticed, complimented, and praised? 

Is the self focused bubble of media attention so blinding that these media hungry therapists truly have so little self awareness when they place the focus on their own egos and agendas vs. the people whose lives are falling apart, the families that are left in ruins, and the victims who are devastated?

Are there healers among us who are so tone deaf or defended, so jaded and self focused, that they cannot see how they are contributing to silencing the voices that have been silenced for far too long as they jump in to the limelight to:

  • Debate

  • Dismiss

  • Minimize

  • Compete

  • Lecture

  • Brag

  • Pontificate

  • Advise

  • Sell

  • Promote

#MeToo is not about "me me me me me me me...too!" How is this confusing for anyone, let alone therapists? I'm all for ethical marketing, and responsible educating, but these kinds of tactics are neither helpful or ethical. 

The caveat to all of this is I applaud and give heartfelt kudos to those therapists who are using the media ethically and judiciously in order to discuss victim's rights, educate on trauma, and share helpful resources. 

#MeToo is not about promoting yourself, your debate, your ego, or anything else except what benefits survivors, as well as what will help perpetrators heal whatever traumatic or narcassitic wounds that inform their abusive behaviors. It is time for therapists who are doing this to hit the pause button and to examine what is motivating these kinds of questionable  marketing ploys.

Once again for the seats in the back: #MeToo is about supporting those who have been sexually abused, raped, harassed, threatened and silenced for far too long. It is about providing safe spaces for healing for all involved. It is about creating a climate where every human being feels safe in whatever space they are occupying.

If you are using your voice in media, then please keep your focus where it needs to be: In support of the survivors. And to educate the offenders. 

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And if all of this media grabbing isn't bad enough, we now have male therapists posting that they are offended by the #MeToo hashtag, some of whom are thumping their fists that "women also sexually harass and rape, not just men!" 

Are you kidding me? No one, especially within our healing community, is denying that women cannot be predators. That said, no one, especially within our healing community, can deny the statistics of violence against women at the hands of men. So please spare me the debate on this. 

Repeat after me: Male bashing is not what the #MeToo movement is about. Dividing genders is not the goal. 

I am struggling to understand why #MeToo is offensive to some of our male therapists. These are mostly good men who are excellent therapists. But clearly more than a few are not grasping how important this movement is for survivors - both male and female. Yes, we understand the importance of providing healing spaces for the perpetrators, but the movement itself is to give a voice to victims. Why is it so important for some among us to dilute this message? 

Is it unreasonable to then wonder if these same therapists are able to clinically help survivors who feel like the #MeToo movement finally allowed them (the survivors) to step up and voice their own story...especially if they (the therapists) have have such an adverse and knee jerk reaction to their own unexamined biases regarding #MeToo?

One such therapist recently posted, "Can we all just shut up about the #MeToo movement now that Kevin Spacey has been raked over the coals? Are you women happy that one of the greatest actors that ever lived is now ruined?"

As if this was the point.

As if this is what #MeToo is about.

And yes, this was a licensed therapist posting this.

What he fails to understand is that this movement is not about a bunch of angry and upset women ready to hunt and destroy men. It is not about painting all men as rapists and predators. It is not about tar and feathering the abusers. It is not about losing our humor, or finding fault in or feeling offended by every post or comment. 

Rather it is about creating a world where every human being, no matter their age, ethnicity, religion, orientation or gender, is able to safely ambulate through their personal, professional and public spaces. And if their safety and body has been violated in those spaces, that they can speak up and not be further victimized, minimized or silenced.

What I find so deeply ironic regarding this therapist's post is that it was not a woman who came forward about Kevin Spacey, it was a man. And to put a finer point on it, the man was believed. And because he was believed, there were immediate steps taken. And because he was immediately believed and supported, his abuser, Spacey, is now (not 10 years from now) dealing with the consequences of his choices to abuse.

I think we can all agree that we are grateful that this victim was believed regardless of his gender. However can we also agree that this sends a rather disheartening message to women: One man reports on Kevin Spacey one time and there are immediate and swift consequences for Spacey that very same day (as there should be).

But when woman after woman after woman, year after year after year, complaint after complaint after complaint come forward about the abuses they received at the hands of Cosby, Weinstien and so many other men, no matter how many women step forward, nothing is done until years, sometimes decades later. If ever.

And let's not forget that several women came forward regarding Trump. Beyond their accounts we have Trump's own words on tape bragging about his abuse of women, and yet he went on to become POTUS. And for those who are thinking, "But what about Bill Clinton?" Yes, that was also an abuse, followed by a lie, followed by victim shaming. 

Bottom Line: Women continue to be assaulted, harassed, groped, threatened and raped every minute of every single day. In the time it took me to write this blog, how many women were hurt? Even one woman is one too many.

And it is equally important to highlight that some of these women do not report because their lives and/or livelihoods depend on their silence. 

Friends, given the seriousness of this issue, as therapists can we agree that the #MeToo movement should not be treated as a personal marketing opportunity or hot media topic to be used to one's advantage? This is a human rights matter and should be treated as such.

If one is going to market around the #MeToo movement, I implore you to be sensitive and direct attention to healing resources for the survivors. Wearing a t-shirt with a clever saying, donning a particular color, or creating an interesting hashtag in support of this movement is a start, but for some of us, men and women who have survived years of brutal sexual abuse or harassment, it can feel condescending and hollow when it is being done to promote that person's agenda.

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Finally, it is wise for each us to remember that there are victims who continue to be assaulted who are watching what is unfolding in the media every day.

They are watching the debates as clinical professionals sit on talk shows and radio shows arguing over the existence of sex addiction, arguing over what treatment modality or facility is best, arguing over the impact of trauma, arguing over... (fill in the blank).

They are also watching the ego fencing in the clinical world, on our Facebook pages and groups, therapists droning on and on about how we must support the offenders in treatment (which I agree that these offending males need on going focused support, but again, can we stop drowning out the victims voices for 5 minutes in order to give them a chance to be seen and heard before jumping on our treatment soap box?). 

These survivors and victims are reading our blogs, and they are observing the band wagon jumpers peddling their wares, and observe that for some therapists it is more about being in the public eye than about the private pain that is driving #MeToo. And guess what? They smell the same bullshit that many of us do. How do I know this? Because my own clients are telling me this in their sessions. Because my friends, loved ones, and colleagues are contacting me by the droves sharing their disgust as they witness this media dance as well. 

Make no mistake about it, trauma survivors have a sixth sense about this kind of marketing. They implicitly know when a person/a therapist is a predator and is attempting to prey on them and the pain of others in order to  promote themselves.

Thankfully these same silent survivors also see those of us who have come forward with our healthy voices, wanting only to be of support. When they hear our clear ethical voices, when they observe that there is not a hidden agenda, this may help them find the strength to come forward, file a report, and seek healing. 

However, there are also those who may not be in a position of coming forward because by doing so they are risking their jobs, their citizenship, or would risk being kicked out of their homes, foster care, or places of worship. These survivors remain silent because if they speak out, they may risk everything, including their own lives.

It is wise to remember that when we are writing our blogs, or speaking in interviews, or sharing our own story as a survivor that we do not inadvertently marganilize those who continue to be abused and harassed and who feel judged for not coming forward, and as a result, then feel even more shamed and even more silenced. Especially when women continue to be doubted, called liars, and as a result, are further victimized and abandoned by this broken system.

To clarify, I am not implying that we should stop advocating loudly and boldly for change. Rather, let's continue to hold sensitive awareness that we have sisters and brothers who cannot speak up right now because the consequences in doing are far too dire. I appreciate what the founder of the Me Too movement, Tarana Burke, a fellow survivor and advocate shared over a decade ago, long before hashtags existed, "Me too is a statement from survivor to survivor that says 'I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I'm here for you and I get it."

That is what this movement is about. Holding space with compassion for each survivor's story and journey while we change laws and lives. 

NOTE: If you are a person, no matter your age, orientation or gender, and you are reading this blog and are currently in a situation where you are being harassed or sexually abused, and have been watching the #MeToo movement but cannot come forward because the consequences feel too dangerous for you, I understand your silence and pain. I was once in those same shoes and I want you to know that being a survivor sometimes means we make it through one day to the next day and to the day after that until we can escape. I do not judge you, and no one should, for surviving any way you can until you can escape, heal, and eventually use your voice to help others. Though I cannot provide therapeutic support on a blog, or offer clinical care for people who do not work with me in my practice, as a support, I have listed resources below. 

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In closing, what is unfolding with the #MeToo movement is a game changer for women and for male survivors as well. #MeToo is shining a light on the hidden struggles of too many human beings. And it is bringing out the best and the worst in our world, and in our healing communities.

I urge each of us who are healers to do our due diligence and examine our marketing motives, hidden agendas, and unexamined biases. It is a challenging time and a complex topic with a lot of voices and swirling opinions. Yet at the center of #MeToo there is one strong message that remains:

Do NOT fucking harass, abuse, rape or assault your fellow human being. And if you do, get the help and treatment needed so that you can be part of the healing solution and take ownership. 

And for therapists: Do not attempt to advance or promote yourself self on the backs of sexual abuse survivors. 

'Cause we are not buying what you are selling.

In support and advocacy,
Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S

The following organizations offer information and advice to sexual assault survivors and friends and families of survivors:

RAINN: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network

-RAINN has a free and confidential hotline available to survivors online or by phone. Its trained staff members can refer people to local rape crisis centers and offer basic advice. 

National Sexual Assault Hotline 

1-800-656-HOPE 

www.rainn.org

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence:

-This website has a contact list of the anti-sexual assault coalitions available in each state and US territory. 

http://endsexualviolence.org/forsurvivors

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

-The NSVRC connects people with information, tools and expertise needed to address and prevent sexual violence. It also maintains an extensive library and virtual information bank of statistics, research, information and speakers on a variety of relevant topics. 

1-877-739-3895 

www.nsvrc.org

NotAlone.gov

-This website created by the "White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault" has a student tab offering information about what to do in the aftermath of an assault along with advice about how to file a complaint against a college. 

https://www.notalone.gov/students/

LEGAL HELP:

SurvJustice 

-This Washington DC based organization provides legal assistance to survivors who need representation at campus hearings, help securing safety measures and other accommodations, along with help filing administrative complains. 

http://survjustice.org/survivors/

Victim Rights Law Center 

-A non profit law center dedicated to serving the needs of rape and sexual assault victims. It offers free legal services to victims of rape and sexual assault throughout Massachusetts and Multinomah and Washington County in Oregon, along with training to attorneys and advocates nationally. 

http://www.victimrights.org/

STUDENT ACTIVIST GROUPS:

Know Your IX: http://knowyourix.org/

Safer: http://safercampus.org

End Rape on Campus: http://endrapeoncampus.org

 

Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S