Julia Max ’03 provides a perspective on the #MeToo movement

In 2016, Max released Distortion, a short film she wrote, directed and produced, which is based on her stories of sexual assault. She, along with some of the film’s cast, has traveled to colleges and film festivals around the U.S. presenting and discussing the movie.

“It’s so wonderful that the movement is on the forethought of everyone’s consciousness right now, but the difficulty is, for most people, it’s always a hypothetical conversation. For survivors, it’s never hypothetical. It can be very painful and re-traumatizing,” Max said.

A recent triggering experience for her occured when she was visiting with her family friends and parents. They discussed the #MeToo movement and Max said she felt her family friends were victim-blaming her regarding her experiences being raped. After the incident, she confronted her parents about their lack of support for her in the conversation and her parents explained they were in complete shock and froze when they hear the family friends response.

Max said she realized that this incident could be an opportunity for them to empathize more with her experiences.

“I realized that although this was a really painful moment for me, it was also a painful moment for them and it was an opportunity for them to learn. I told them, ‘that feeling that you had, that shock, that complete moment where you freeze and you can’t do or say anything. That’s what I felt like when I was being raped; that’s what I felt like any time I’ve been assaulted,’” Max said.

She said that though the movement is difficult for survivors of assault, it has made her feel comforted in that she is not alone for the first time.

“I think as triggering as the movement can be for assault survivors, it’s also incredibly comforting because you have to understand this is the first time in my entire life that I’ve not felt alone about this. That’s incredible and it makes all the difference,” Max said.

Though the #MeToo movement has provided Max with comfort, she said she feels that the movement’s broad fight against all types of assault and harassment might hinder the movement’s ability to be sustained.

“The #MeToo movement encapsulates so many different types of assault. I think it confuses people a lot that’s why we need to talk about this more so we can understand the differences… To be perfectly honest, there are different levels [of assault] and painting it all with the same brush and giving the same punishments for the variety of crimes that is what’s going to make people turn off to this movement,” Max said.

If someone wants to get involved in the #MeToo movement, Max explained, she should choose which part of the movement she is most drawn to.

“I would encourage you all to think about what you’re passionate about and what aspect of the movement you want to get behind. Whether it’s making a movie, making a painting, writing an article, or getting involved in volunteering, there are so many different ways to be a part of this movement,” Max said.

Along with choosing what your passionate about, Max explained the importance in listening to survivors’ stories in an open and supportive way.

“I think the most important thing is to listen and to believe them. I cannot stress that enough, that is by far the most important thing, to not instantly start an interrogation. If you know someone who is brave enough to come forward and tell you their story just believe them. Don’t question them about it; let them lead the way,” Max said.

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