The simple-looking two words—me too— are spoken with understanding. Beyond the two words, it conveys the message, “I feel your pain.” Those brave words are not merely expressions of light sympathy, but are shows of deep appreciation and compassion from a sincere place in the heart. However, victims of sexual violence and activists from the Me Too movement are now suffering from secondary victimization. While the Me Too survivors risk their lives to reveal underlying violence within our society, their lives are once again at risk with people’s ignorance.
▲ Provided by Clip Art Korea
In January, the disclosure of sexual harassment within the current authorities of the prosecution ignited fire in the nation’s movement. Following the revelation, sexual violence from all walks of life rose to the surface. The former governor of South Chung Cheong Province Ahn Hee Jong turned out to have sexually harassed his secretary over the years. Moreover, Lee Youn-taek, a well-known figure in the theatrical scene, committed countless sexual offenses on his coworkers. The suspects were either expelled or suspended from their positions and were accused of their crimes. Shocked by the habitual and inhumane acts of the once highly- respected public figures, outraged citizens demanded severe punishment upon the perpetrators.
However, the degree of the penalty merely suited the level of the suspects’ perpetration. On August 14, the court declared former governor Ahn innocent at the first trial, claiming all his 10 suspicions not guilty. The unexpected verdict was enough to perturb the people and the press. “Even with the full respect of the court, the verdict is still incomprehensible,” claimed the prosecution. After the verdict was released, unexpected questions were raised in the media. Voices saying that the “victims are the gold diggers” or that “they have done it because of the money” emerged from the SNS more than before.
Gallup, a company that carries out public opinion polls, conducted a survey on August 21 to 23 of about 1000 respondents, asking whether they agreed or disagreed upon the result of Ahn’s trial. To this, 41 percent of the male respondents disagreed, while 27 percent of them showed a sense of consent. The results were not so different with the female respondents—48 percent of them disagreed and the other 25 percent agreed. Overall, there were surprisingly many people who agreed on the court’s conclusion that Ahn was innocent. Moreover, roughly 30 percent of the reason people agree with the verdict was due to the misconception shown towards victims. Such words were ascribing the incident to the victim; “It was done in consent,” or “The victim had romantic feelings toward him.”
Furthermore, mistreating the whistle- blowers, abusing the Fence-Rule to keep a distance from women in general in a ridiculing manner and addressing the incident with the names of the victims are deeds that were questioned and reexamined along with the continuation of the Me Too movement. While the Me Too movement is hitting the globe, these examples of secondary victimization show irony in that the society acknowledges the problem and yet does not engage in solving it. Where does this mistreatment toward the victims derive from?
Secondary Victimization – The What and Why
According to Lee Mi Gyeong, the Chief of Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center (KSVRC), secondary victimization is defined as “the financial disadvantage or physiological pain of the victim caused by the negative response received after exposure from the medical center, press, authorities, acquaintance, etc.” This resistance occurs due to the social prejudice deeply rooted in the past generation and is continuously instilled. According to Professor Lim In-sook (Department of Sociology), the perpetrator of the secondary victimization is not confined to someone particular to the victim. Due to the widespread usage of the SNS and Internet, unspecified individuals possess the possibility of becoming an assailant.
▲ Professor Lim In-sook, Provided by Professor Lim In-sook
Professor Lim claimed that the the aspect of viewing the secondary victimization differs between the conservative and progressive party. Conservative parties are familiar with the misconception related to sexual rights and are reluctant about the cultural changes. People of those kinds still stick to such concepts regarding women as sexual objectst and are discomforted by women who break the traditional gender roles of women as mere keepers of the house. The persistent few could be those who preach such ideas on the internet.
Professor Lim also said that younger generations seem to conceive such beliefs starting from the age of adolescence. Many teenagers are more open-minded about sex due to the constant education at school. However, this means that teenagers could also be exposed more to the obscene culture of pornography, instilling distorted notions about sex. As they become accustomed to this culture of sex since middle and high school, it continues long into adulthood which could possibly be aggravated by joining a same sex community like the army. After the socialization during their time with the same sex, the misconception is perceived natural to them. The ignorance and the closed community aggravate this attitude, which narrows the gate of the younger generation becoming a new stream in the cultural river.
Me Too Movement , Turning Point of the Current Viewpoint
“Perpetrators seem to belittle the act of the Me Too movement, questioning why the victims did not expose the incident right after its happening and doubting the veracity of the victim’s words.” Little did perpetrators know that the victims contemplated for many years whether it was worth the social pressure and the disadvantages of losing the job, according to Professor Lim. Not only the perpetrators but citizens also do not understand the damage behind the boldness of a victim’s speech. People perceive only the superficial parts of the incident, explaining the lack of empathy toward victims.
The current sexual culture in Korea is inherent The current sexual culture in Korea has its blind spots where women cannot be protected from such acts of violence. It indicates at the present that it is impossible to completely avoid the influence of it. Yet, what scares us the most is that no one perceives that there is a danger around us. Our simple words could tacitly hurt victims without knowing it. This kind of stagnate culture secretly hides the vulnerable feature of our society and shadows it by justifying it as a natural state. However, the Me Too movement gave a big twist to the seemingly natural culture and now reveals the need for change. Acting as a turning point, the Me Too movement is a strong stimulus in itself.