Five years after the #MeToo movement went viral, advocates and survivors say it’s still too hard to speak out.
Advocacy groups around the city have banded together in an effort to shift that shame by trying to address the root causes of gender-based violence.
The Survivor Power Institute, made up of 10 organization across Chicago, launched their pilot in November with the goal of placing survivors at the forefront of making changes in their communities.
Karla Altmayer, co-founder and co-director of Healing to Action, a nonprofit that launched the institute, said one of the goals is to put survivors in leadership roles — whether that be in grassroots campaigns or in their communities.
Having survivors as leaders in communities can provide resources to other survivors who might be isolated from bigger organizations or those who don’t want to contact police, Altmayer said.
They will have the tools to be able to navigate difficult conversations around violence, she added.
“Survivors who are already embedded in the community are able to talk to their neighbor or their co-worker and be a beacon of light and a resource for them,” Altmayer said.
A study from The Network, another group focused on gender-based violence, found in 2021 there was a 6% increase in the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline calls since 2020 and a 42% increase in Hotline texts since 2020.
While the numbers are up, Altmayer said there’s still concerns about isolated survivors who were not able to report their cases during the pandemic and who might have been housed with an abuser during quarantine or stuck with a job with workplace harassment due to economic insecurity.
Additionally, those most impacted by gender-based violence are Black and brown individuals, people from the LGBTQ community, disabled people or those without economic power, Altmayer said. It’s crucial that organizations addressing this violence center these groups, she added.
“If the person in Silicon Valley can’t speak up, imagine what it’s like for someone who works at McDonald’s,” Altmayer said.