#MeToo advocate Dr Hera Cook strives to protect wāhine

By Tema Hemi

Historian writer Dr Hera Cook has been writing about heterosexual sexuality for the last 30 years. Dr Cook says it’s been a long battle to get equality for women in particular in the workplace. She also has been a prominent advocate for the '#Me Too' movement, a movement against sexual harassment and sexual abuse.    

Dr Cook knows too well the hardships that many women face in our society.  

"I was certainly sexually harassed at work as a young woman.

“It's something that I think that has been a part of the lives of most women who have been involved in a whole range of occupations like hospitality but also really privileged occupations.”

Founded in 2006 the '#Me Too' movement supports survivors of sexual violence and their allies. It does this by connecting survivors to resources, offering community organizing assistance, pursuing a '#Me Too' policy platform, and gathering sexual violence researchers and research material.

Cook continues, "I think women get blamed, the women lose their jobs, the women get a bad name they lose their reputation and the men go sailing on.

“It’s not all men and I think that something we must be really aware of."

An international high profile case that reached a guilty verdict against Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault and rape case is being hailed as a turning point in the #MeToo movement. Cook spoke about the Weinstein verdict:

"This kind of man, these powerful men can get away with an incredible amount and this movement the #Me Too movement is gonna make a difference for all women.

“It’s about women who are really privileged and even they have to put up with sexual coercion in order to get work."

Paetakawaenga at Toah-Nnest Sexual Violence Specialist Services Russell Smith says iwi and hapu involvement in sexual abuse issues can make a difference for Māori women who have been victimised in our society. Smith says:

"I think as a hapu body there’s a lot we can do within our marae, within our whānau at that hapu level that we can be doing.

“I think iwi has a responsibility as a whole but I think when we talk about leaders within the iwi they don’t sit within a iwi forum they sit out also within the community under the 'whakaminenga' roopu and many others."

Cook says she has made it her life's ambition to protect the sacredness of all women. 

"When I started becoming an historian one of the things I was really interested in was creating a world in which women could live their sexual lives with equality in an atmosphere of justice without coercion."