#HimToo Undermines Assault Stories

When #MeToo went viral in 2017, backlash was to be expected. After decades of silence, people, especially women, were sharing their stories of sexual abuse and assault in displays of solidarity with other survivors. But in the wake of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, #HimToo, gained traction in social media spheres.

Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by professor Christine Blasey Ford, inspired the counter-hashtag #HimToo.

The campaign was designed to call attention to instances of false sexual assault accusations, with a viral Facebook post reading:

“As long as women who accuse men of sexual attacks are believed without evidence or due process, no man is safe. I’m not safe. Your husband isn’t safe. Your father isn’t safe. Your son isn’t safe. Your grandson isn’t safe. Your male friends aren’t safe. #HimToo.”

#MeToo gained popularity in 2017 after actress and activist Alyssa Milano encouraged survivors of sexual abuse and harassment to use the hashtag to bring attention to their experiences.

Created by Tarana Burke, the original focus of the #MeToo movement was to connect people with “pathways to healing” after sexual abuse, but the scope has since expanded to include stories of those who have experienced any kind of sexual abuse, harassment, assault or violence.

One issue with #HimToo is that #MeToo does not take a gendered stance. The mission has been to encourage all survivors, regardless of gender, to share their experiences. #HimToo was designed in opposition to the #MeToo movement, which includes men. It took an adversarial stance against the #MeToo movement, but #HimToo delegitimized itself by missing the point of the original movement entirely.

Instead of focusing on problems that disproportionately impact men, like increased rates of incarceration, suicide, decreased rates of college graduation, or the under-reported problem of sexual violence against men, #HimToo honed in on false accusations. Some posts went as far as to falsely claim that 99 percent of rape accusations are made up, saying the phenomenon of “crying rape” is ruining men’s lives.

But false accusations of sexual violence aren’t as common as the hashtag makes them seem. A meta-analysis published in the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers John Malouff and Claire Ferguson reviewed seven international studies concerning false accusations. It concluded that rates of false rape accusations are low worldwide, with 5.2 percent proven to be false.

On average globally, the highest rate of provably false reports was estimated at 10.3 percent in areas of Canada. Of these reports proven to be false, even fewer led to criminal charges or resulted in jail time for the falsely accused.

Sexual violence, on the other hand, is extremely prevalent. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports approximately one in three American women and nearly one in six American men will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. The center also estimates that over 50 percent of rapes are never reported to police, so the number of actual assaults is probably much higher.

According to FBI crime statistics, 130,603 rapes were reported to law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. in 2016. If we say for the sake of argument that the U.S. has one of the highest rates of false reports worldwide, then 10 percent of those are false reports.   

Our current president has been accused of sexual misconduct by 16 different women. People accused of sexual crimes go on to be film directors, musicians, CEOs and fill seats in Congress.

#HimToo is a tool for silencing those victims by drowning out their concerns. If it was designed to empower men, it would focus on a legitimate problem, not a manufactured one.

Katherine Lippert