by Madalyn Johnson, Web Editor
As the Jasper community adapts to college life both inside the classroom and online, many student-led clubs are finalizing plans for how they will address this fall semester. Campus programs are now forced to be creative in how they can create a welcoming atmosphere through the computer screen.
#MeToo Mondays is one program at Manhattan College that started last March and ended abruptly when the COVID-19 pandemic caused students and faculty to evacuate the campus. Now, going into the fall 2020 semester, the program is committed to holding weekly virtual meetings and being an outlet for those who want to continue to have relevant discussions about sexual misconduct.
Senior Julia Ettere and junior Christina Trichilo run #MeToo Mondays and hold weekly meetings on Google Hangout. Last Semester, Ettere was inspired to organize a support group such as this one when working at the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, a community on campus known for launching or supporting inclusive, student-led groups on campus like the LGBTQ+ student group, Women in STEM, and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
“I started working as an intern for the Women’s Center last spring,” Ettere said. “They asked me what I want to focus on, and I kind of just developed this passion for helping survivors of sexual assault at the beginning of freshman year, and so I thought a support group would be perfect because I really feel like when you go through an experience similar to someone else, it’s a lot, easier to understand each other.”
In regards to the switch online, Ettere and Trichilo are disappointed that meetings cannot take place where they usually would, at the resource center, considering the environment is meant to make students feel comfortable talking about sensitive subjects. Although, not being physically present and having to share experiences virtually may draw in more attendees.
“It was definitely nice to meet in-person last year because we would meet at the LWGRC, and that space is just very calming and very nice,” Ettere said. “But I do think that it might actually be helpful for it to be online because people might feel more comfortable because they don’t actually have to go sit in the same room with people. They could always just shut off their camera, shut off their mic and they’re in their own space.”
Trichilo also agreed with Ettere that talking virtually and not having to be seen may ease students’ concerns about discussing sexual harassment with other people.
“I do agree that maybe for some people it’s better online because they don’t have to come and be like surrounded by so many people and they don’t feel as exposed online,” Trichilo said. “So, it’s easier for them to open up and, you know, share.”
Regardless of how the meetings are administered this semester, organizers of #MeToo Mondays still want to emphasize that the program is meant to be a space that is non-judgemental and mindful of how impactful people’s past experiences have been. Online, the club will proceed to have people write, draw, and express themselves however they please, which will then start conversations amongst other members. Ettere explained how meetings will routinely go.
“I always start with an introduction and then after that, every week, me and Christina give out a prompt and so it’s problem-centered around the experiences that people have with sexual harassment, sexual assault or intimate partner violence,” Ettere said. “Everyone just takes the time to write and like we’re all just kind of sitting together, but now it’s on Google meet.”
With many dubbing 2020 as one of the worst years because of a global pandemic and the social injustices that have taken place across the U.S., members of #MeToo Mondays want to stress that it’s critical the program continues to run throughout the semester. Trichilo brought up how the constant media coverage of COVID-19 and other social issues shouldn’t dissuade society from talking about the #MeToo Movement.
“What’s going on with COVID[-19], the election and even the Civil Rights uprising, MeToo has kind of disappeared from the media, but I don’t think it will ever go away,” Trichilo said. “I think even though it’s not in the media, there’s still people out there and other women there to support you.”
Ashley Cross, an English professor and the faculty co-director of the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource center spoke about how bringing up conversations about sexual harassment and assault through virtual MeToo Mondays is vital during a time when distancing is mandatory and domestic violence is on the rise.
“First off, the [resource center] has limited capacity, it has only [room for] three [people] and a lot of students are remote, and I think it’s very important for all students to have access to MeToo Mondays to be able to talk about sexual harassment and domestic violence and things like that,” Cross said. “In some cases, those situations or that need has actually increased because they are home or in spaces that aren’t safe for them and they really need the resources.”
After everything a victim has gone through, Ettere and Trichilo want to point out that programs like #MeToo Mondays can’t make a victim forget about a traumatic event, but they can be valuable experiences that help victims heal and cope from the past.
“A lot of [victims] kind of suppress their trauma, so we’re kind of helping them talk through it and process what happened, even though it can be hard,” Trichilo said. “Our main goal is to just try to help everyone heal and know that they’re not alone in this.”
To find out more information about MeToo Mondays, be sure to follow Ettere and Trichilo on Instagram, @julia_ettere, and @christina_trichilo.