BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — An Instagram page created by a group of young women in Bethlehem is offering a voice to victims of sexual harrassment and abuse.
In less than 24 hours, hundreds of young people have shared their own stories. Some instances allegedly happened on school grounds or during school sponsored events. The posts have the school district and the police taking action.
The messages are posted under the Instagram account @metoobethlehem.
Most are anonymous. Many were written by individuals who identified themselves as current or previous Bethlehem school district students.
They describe accounts ranging from inappropriate comments, all the way to sexual abuse.
Victims allege that some instances actually occurred on school grounds, on school buses, or during school sponsored events.
“This tells me that there is a big problem with neglect of sexual harassment at Bethlehem.”
Morgan Mulligan is a recent Bethlehem graduate and one of the young women behind @metoobethlehem. The Instagram page had only been up for just one day when Morgan saw there were hundreds of comments.
She described to NEWS10’s Anya Tucker the motivation behind the page.
“A situation of from about two years ago resurfaced this week where a group of guys at our school made a bracket sorting through a group of women at our school.”
She and a group of friends decided enough was enough and that’s when @metoobethlehem was born.
“We decided to reach out to the school district yesterday. The day after we made the account, because yesterday, at the time we sent the email, there were about 200 responses in 24 hours.”
Bethlehem Schools Superintendent Jody Monroe sent out a message to families Wednesday morning calling the allegations in the posts “disturbing and heartbreaking and in some cases, may be criminal.”
She added that she has assembled a team of counselors and social workers available to talk to students and that the district has also notified the police.
“It’s a very alarming, the number of allegations that are posted on that site, and that’s what’s most concerning to us,” said Bethlehem Police Commander Adam Hornick.
He said he is not aware of anyone coming forward with information regarding the stories posted on social media, but he encouraged potential victims to reach out to his department.
“And not only are we here as a police department and in an investigative and criminal prosecution capacity, we are also here in a support capacity. And part of that is letting these people know what resources are available to them at all times.”
“We definitely want to see curriculum change, and we want to make sure that our teachers and administrators are aware of this problem and working to lessen it,” said Morgan.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy issued this message:
“The accounts of harassment and even some of sexual violence posted to Instagram are alarming and if true, can never be tolerated in our community. Choosing to come forward, as so many did, took courage and those individuals should be empowered to continue to do so. No one should ever be victimized in this way, but those who are will always have a champion at our Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center. Our Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 at (518) 447-7716, and is completely anonymous if need be.”
This is a video update from Superintendent Monroe as of Wedesday July, 1 2020: