When Dr. Meredith Worthen, professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, launched her Instagram account in the wake of the #MeToo movement, it started as a steady drip of feedback.
Now, Worthen has hundreds of stories from people — mostly women — sharing their stories of sexual assault and misconduct they have faced in their lifetime. With permission, she posts them anonymously on the Me Too Meredith Instagram page, which has over 3,500 followers — meaning in about two months, the account has accrued 500 followers each week.
“There are so many more waiting to be heard and I get more every day,” Worthen said. “I believe I have created a safe space for survivors and I am glad they are willing to speak out.”
In an interview with KGOU, Worthen said she launched the account in August, but it really started to take off on the Oct. 15 anniversary of actor Alyssa Milano’s first #MeToo tweet. What started as a few dozen people offering their stories to be posted anonymously turned into hundreds.
Worthen teaches sexual deviance and society at OU, and she said while instructing this course students will disclose their own stories of sexual violence or harassment. When the #MeToo movement launched, she said she began thinking of ways she can help more.
Twitter was her original platform of choice, but that account didn’t seem to take off. So Worthen said she learned how to use Instagram for this purpose, and it worked.
After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in then Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Worthen said her account began to get attention. Then later in October, it really began to take off.
“I got about 10 stories that day. The next day 10 or 20 more and same with the next and the next,” she said. “Soon my inbox was full. I had so many stories I couldn’t post them all. I got over 1000 followers in less than a week. I was completely overwhelmed and I wasn’t sure I could handle it actually. It was a lot. It still is a lot. But what kept me going then and keeps me going now are all the beautiful ‘thank yous’ that people send me.”
Some of the stories Worthen posts are of particularly traumatic experiences, the kind that survivors of sexual assault might relate to and the kind that might trigger unwanted feelings. Worthen said she asks every person who submits a story if they mind her posting it anonymously, and the majority say yes. She also includes a trigger warning for survivors, but reading other experiences and knowing they are not alone is often helpful.
“It is cathartic to share our stories but it is also helping others to hear stories they can relate to,” Worthen said. “When we know we are helping others, it helps us to heal. I just can’t tell you how beautiful the whole thing is, you really have to see it for yourself. Even if you don’t have an Instagram account, you can google search MeTooMeredith to see all of this.”
The sheer amount of stories Worthen has received show this isn’t just a women’s issue, she said. Men, the LGBTQ community, or anyone can benefit from sexual violence awareness and support, and that stretches the globe as Worthen has received messages from multiple countries.
The hope is that the messages and stories shared on MeTooMeredith will lift up survivors, and give them the hope to encourage change. The account and interactions continue to grow, and Worthen said she has shifted to encourage people reading that sharing — under the correct circumstances, of course — is beneficial to everyone.
“I want to be able to raise my 4-year-old daughter in a world where we take sexual violence seriously, where people believe survivors, where we are not plagued by the burden of “proving” we were assaulted,” Worthen said, “where perhaps the statistic that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes is not the case anymore, and that people understand men are victims of sexual violence too and that transgender and non-binary people are even more likely to be assaulted than cis men and women.
“Survivors should be aware that if they are following MeTooMeredith, it will be triggering. However, it can also be very healing to know you are not alone. I try to reiterate: It is not your fault and we believe you.”