#MeToo – An Interview with Kristin Canan – Part 1
#MeToo – An Interview with Kristin Canan – Part 1
Categories: RECENT RESEARCH
Kristin Canan, LMSW, interviewed by Michaela Williams
Michaela: As we get started, can you tell me a little bit about your background?
Kristin: My name is Kristin Canan and I am a licensed social worker for the state of Alabama. I specialize in interpersonal trauma and specifically the intersection of where trauma and maladaptive coping skills, like substance abuse, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, self-harm, all intersect. And a majority of my specialty in interpersonal trauma comes in sexual violence prevention and response, as well as domestic violence and dating violence prevention and response, so that’s really where my passion lies.
Michaela: So, one of the things that leads us to this interview today is the #MeToo Campaign on social media. In case anyone is unaware of it, can you go ahead and summarize what the campaign is all about?
Kristin: A woman, about 5 years ago, had initiated a plea to other women who had experienced some sort of sexual violence. Then recently one of the celebrities picked up the campaign and said, “Wouldn’t it be powerful for our community if anyone who has ever experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault listed a hashtag of ‘MeToo’ on their social media website so that people could get an understanding of the prevalence and severity of the problem?” So within 24 hours, there were millions of women and girls around the world who had listed this hashtag on their social media sites; some of them disclosing their personal stories and others simply listing “#MeToo” as a way of solidarity but also as a way to raise awareness about the severity and prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault. So what we’ve seen is this incredible movement in a lot of ways to reach out and let other women and girls know they are not alone in this. But also to raise awareness and hopefully a response to the prevalence and severity of how many women and girls have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Michaela: Could you give us your personal initial response when you first saw the “#MeToo” Campaign?
Kristin: So initially, I was a little taken aback in some ways because I think it’s an incredible idea and such a powerful way for the people to see the prevalence and severity of this issue. But at the same time, my mind went immediately to all the trauma survivors I’ve worked with and what we know about trauma and how it gets triggered. As grateful as I was that awareness was being raised and the attention it was getting, simultaneously I was kind of concerned about all of the people who might be triggered by this and how much trauma or different memories, or shame and guilt could be mustered up in some people or triggered. And so simultaneously, as grateful as I was, I was concerned around the response because what we also know is people can be triggered by memories and things like that, by reminders and different conversations, and news stories. We also know that the reason why the “#MeToo” Campaign is so powerful is because historically, when women have come forward, there been a lot of misdirected blame. There has been a lot of shaming or questioning or looking at people differently. So I was kind of holding my breath for a little bit to see what the response was going to be because every time somebody takes that risk to be vulnerable and to put their story out there they are taking a risk of being criticized, blamed, or shamed. So initially, it was a mixed response of excitement and concern and anticipation, as well as empathy for all of those people who can’t for whatever reason, whether that be putting their job at risk or how their family is going to look at them or their overall safety, can’t list a “#MeToo” on their social media and what’s that like for them? I think for a while my internal process and my emotions were kind of all over the place but very hopeful as to what impact this could potentially have.
Michaela: Yes, that’s completely understandable and I can see that from your perspective. Following from that previous question, what do you believe the ultimate goal is for those who are posting as part of the “#MeToo” Campaign? Are people more motivated towards the personal healing, awareness, or both?
Kristin: I think it’s a little bit of both because there’s inherent feeling in knowing that you’re not the only one. And yes, in theory, we can kind of assume we are not the only one and we know that when we are around our girls and our friends that these conversations have been a lot more often in general but there’s some beauty and some healing in solidarity and people coming together and saying, “#MeToo;” this isn’t your fault, I get it, I understand. Because when we experience trauma, that trauma has a tendency to make us feel isolated, makes us feel like we are the only ones, or that there is something wrong with us, so that we have something to hold shame around. So I think there is some inherent healing that comes with knowing that there are so many other women and girls that have experienced this and at the same time that is kind of terrifying, right? So I think there is also some power behind the potential of this movement and how many women and girls are coming forward, and people who identify as LGBTQ, and men and boys, and realistically how much this conversation of sexual violence is in the spotlight right now. You know, I think it provides us a really awesome opportunity to realistically and responsibility respond. At this point it’s figuring out how it’s going to be most effective to respond and actually do something about this. I think if we see all of these “#MeToo” statuses and we choose not to respond, then what responsibility do we hold if this continues at the same prevalence that it already has been?
Kristin Canan, LMSW, has empowered individuals’ healing journeys in a multitude of leadership, therapeutic, program development, and community-based roles through her work in residential treatment, addiction services, outpatient psychiatry, victim crisis response, outreach, and bereavement services. In addition to a Master of Social Work and Interpersonal Trauma Certification from University of Denver, Kristin is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. She specializes in navigating the intersections between trauma responses, mental health disorders, and presenting maladaptive coping skills such as substance abuse, self-harm, suicidality, and eating disordered behaviors. Kristin has been invited to speak at national and international conferences, and has served as a trauma and grief expert for an international crisis intervention training organization. Kristin has also authored and published multiple articles on effectively responding to sexual violence, created training materials for victim advocates, and developed curricula for the Graduate School of Social Work at University of Denver. As a frequent speaker and educator, she is passionate about ensuring that every community has the ability to respond to trauma survivors in a way that honors their processes, leads them towards healing, and allows them to experience how loved and worthy they are. For further information on supporting trauma survivors or organizational response needs, please reach out to Kristin by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling her at (920) 850-6496.
Michaela Williams was born and raised in Northern Virginia. She is a student at Liberty University studying Psychology with a concentration in counseling. She is an intern at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). She enjoys working part-time at her local coffee shop and teaches paint classes at her local art studio. Besides school and work, she is involved with Woven Together Ministries where she writes blogs and co-hosts on their radio show. She is passionate about others learning about Jesus and finding healing through the love and grace the Lord provides.