Carrying a banner, Alexa McGriff and Tavi Ellis marched down the stairs of the Fayetteville Town Center on April 21. A large crowd of approximately 75 men and women folded in behind them, pink and black signs waving above their heads.
Their voices rang as they shouted various chants into the streets, “What do we do when they attack? We fight back.” Their assault was no longer a burden for only them to carry. They were not alone. For the first time some they felt like they were being heard.
The ME TOO March on Fayetteville on April 21 gave locals the opportunity to address sexual violence and support survivors of sexual assault. The #MeToo movement started in October 2017 as a hashtag to show women that they were not alone as victims of sexual violence.
Alexa McGriff’s #MeToo moment was not when she was raped at age 18, but years prior, she said. It started with things like a boy grabbing her butt on the playground and escalated as she grew older with comments on the bus or in class, to suggestive emails, inappropriate texts and pressure to flirt back with men at work to seem nice or ladylike, she said.
“The list goes on and on, and I know I’m not alone,” McGriff said.
One in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Junior Sidni Wooten attended the march after seeing it promoted on Facebook. After seeing the #MeToo movement on social media, she wanted to play a part in it herself, she said.
The #MeToo movement gives college men and women a chance to be open about sexual assault, Wooten said. Wooten thinks that sexual assault happens on college campuses more often than what is reported.
“Sexual assault can happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Wooten said. “So it’s good that we were all able to come together, talk about it, march together and bring awareness to it.”
The march acknowledged sexual violence that occurs against people of color, men, the elderly and people with developmental disabilities.
Julie Petty, a UA alumna who was born with a developmental disability, spoke for survivors of sexual assault with disabilities.
“The No. 1 problem my peers and I have is that people don’t believe us because of the stereotypes people have,” Petty said. “You have to start believing every victim – every survivor.”
The march was four months in the making. Bailey Bauers, a survivor of sexual abuse, started the march by creating a Facebook page for the event and contacting people in the area. Along the way, she met Ellis and McGriff, who became co-organizers and eventually took over the project when Bauers had to step down for personal reasons.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan proclaimed April 21 as #MeToo March Day in Fayetteville. Jordan has had friends and family affected by sexual violence, and he thinks that sexual assault and abuse should never be tolerated, he said.
McGriff felt excited to be supported by so many people, she said.
“When I was sexually assaulted, I felt completely alone,” McGriff said. “I felt like no one knew what that felt like and no one cared to know. And so just seeing all of this has been amazing.”