Allyship 101: From #metoo to #ustoo

From #metoo to #ustoo

Group two break out session at “Finding the Right Words” allyship training

Group two break out session at “Finding the Right Words” allyship training

The #meetoo era is an encouraging one as it exposes the pervasiveness of sexual assault in our culture by removing the silence that once concealed it. While it is a powerful step in the right direction, I can not help but to feel a sense of frustration for the part that the movement plays in what I believe to be the underbelly of rape culture: victim accountability. Fundamentally, the #metoo movement, which empowers and emboldens survivors to share their story, is an extension of a dangerous misconception about sexual assault prevention and response efforts - one that places the onus on survivors to protect themselves from perpetrators, to defend themselves during an assault and to advocate for themselves, both publicly and in the court of law by speaking out about what happened.

While the intention is to empower, the weight of the responsibility to champion their own experiences and to be fearless in the pursuit of justice can leave survivors feeling exhausted, defeated or worse - alone. The reality is that for survivors, speaking out against their perpetrator can be isolating, especially in the absence of proper support from loved ones.


To address and combat rape culture, the  #metoo movement must evolve into a more holistic and inclusive one: #USTOO. We are the friends, siblings, teachers, parents, employers, partners - we are the embodiment of the love and support that survivors deserve. One in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. As such, 5 in 6 should be allies - equipped with the proper tools and resources that they need to successfully facilitate the right conversations with survivors.

Recognizing this need, Vanede hosted a training on allyship that provided participants with actionable and realistic ways to support survivors of sexual abuse. “Finding the Right Words” featured experts representing the mental health and anti-sexual assault spaces - including Dr. Rashanta Bledman, Counseling Psycholgist, Kari O’Donnel, RAINN Safe Helpline Staffer; Lizette Contreras, survivor of domestic violence, and Amaya Smith, co-founder of the Brown Beauty Co-Op. Together, they demonstrated how having the right conversations with survivors not only helps them move forward from the trauma, but also to reduces their risk of being assaulted again.

Here are some of our favorite tips shared by the panel:

Lizette Contreras, Survivor:

  • Just be there: Sometimes we don’t need you to say or do anything at all, we just need to know that you’re there. Even if it means sitting in silence, we need to know what we’re not alone and that we’re not being judged for what happened.

Rashanta Bledman, Counseling Psychologist:

  • Believe survivors: There is no need to be an investigator or to ask for every single detail about the assault. Just believe them. Let them know that they’re believed.

Kari O’Donnell, Safe Helpline Staffer:

  • Don’t make it about you: Ask the survivor what they need from you, how you can support them on their journey - they don’t need you to make decisions for them. Give them back the power and control over their lives

Workshop participants used this Vanede handout to craft empathetic and compassionate responses to sexual assault disclosures. Find a copy of this handout  here.

Workshop participants used this Vanede handout to craft empathetic and compassionate responses to sexual assault disclosures. Find a copy of this handout here.

Following the panel, participants were separated into three groups, and using help from the panelists, worked together to craft an empathetic and compassionate response to common scenarios of which a survivor might disclose abuse.  

Our attendees were full of passion, empathy and a genuine desire to learn how to support survivors in the way that they need, and we’re grateful to have been a part of their allyship journey. Here’s what some of our participants had to say about “Finding the Right Words”:

“I think the group scenarios really gave us a glimpse into the ways we would respond when these situations arise in real life. It was extremely important to have the difficult conversations and prepare ourselves to act and support survivors”

“This is a safe space… allowing for collaboration and working through scenarios. Survivor sharing her story”

“Very organized. Nice venue. Felt safe”

“I appreciated the break-out session and expert panel discussion. The panel questions were insightful and engaging!”

“The space was welcoming. All information presented was relatable and more importantly, actionable. Very realistic and applicable”

Vanede is committed to creating a world where help for sexual assault and domestic violence can be found everywhere that women are, one where we all recognize the role we play in eradicating rape culture and creating safe and harassment-free environments. I remember the day the hashtag #metoo saturated my social media feeds like it was yesterday. It was such a powerful and historical moment. I remember feeling equally encouraged and exhausted by the weight of its reality. The burden, when carried alone, feels like an uphill battle - but together, we tranform #metoo into #ustoo. Together, we have the power to heal and change lives.

Are you interested in bringing the “Finding the Right Words” or another Vanede training to your organization? E-mail us at!