After the Harvey Weinstein scandal unfolded this month, many survivors of sexual violence took to social media to share their own experiences of sexual assault and harassment in and out of Hollywood. Some expressed frustration with the so-called "open secret" of sexual assault perpetrators who operate in plain sight but, whether because of power or influence, are rarely prosecuted. Discussions online came to a head this weekend as the
Me Too campaign united survivors of sexual assault and harassment in an attempt at not just solidarity, but tallying.
The campaign traces back to a sister campaign,
#WomenWhoRoar, which sought to amplify the voices of women who are often systematically silenced when talking about their experience as survivors. #WomenWhoRoar, promoted on Saturday by Amy Siskind of The New Agency, a women's advocacy nonprofit, eventually branched off into personal stories of assault and harassment, denoted by the addition of "me too" into related tweets.
As trends often do, the hashtag soon took off across multiple social media platforms, with survivors sharing their stories. Sometimes their tweets detailed horrific sexual assaults; sometimes they simply expressed the relief of finally speaking up in public. Across the board,
survivors stood in solidarity with each other, reminding themselves that, if nothing else, they are not alone in their experiences.
Users used their experiences with sexual harassment and assault to call attention to Twitter for temporarily locking Rose McGowan's account.
Actress Alyssa Milano gained a lot of attention on Sunday when she urged those among her followers who are survivors to tweet at her.
Amy Siskind, an advocate behind the trending hashtag, was alarmed by the vast number of women self-reporting their experiences.
Comedian Lane Moore said she hoped that someday women would rally around feeling safe together instead of to tell stories about being abused.
Many women are often told that it's their fault they were sexually assaulted or harassed, and as the #MeToo hashtag highlighted, it's alarmingly common.
Victim blaming often seeks to attribute assault to something the victim did or said, but author Quinn Cummings argued that only one party is to blame — the perpetrator.
Some #MeToo participants took a moment to reflect on all the voices that weren't speaking up this weekend because they were too scared or emotionally unprepared to do so.
We Have All Dealt With This
Even though rallying calls can be a point of solidarity, they can also be a harrowing reality check.
Having To Bare Their Souls
In situations of sexual violence, the onus often falls on survivors to keep the topic in conversation, something that can be extremely traumatic for victims to relive.
Taking the opportunity to offer support to fellow survivors, user Shannon Taylor used the hashtag as an opportunity to share a message of hope.
Frequently, survivors shared stories of emotional manipulation that took place after the assault itself.
After years of feeling silenced, #MeToo offered a supportive platform for survivors of sexual violence to speak out.
Even though each assault discussed was a unique experience, many recognized that they weren't the only person they knew with similar traumas.
One user, and many others, recalled over a decade of sexual abuse.
Victim Becomes The Accused
Many participants expressed frustration about the tendency for victims of sexual violence to be accused of lying, or worse, causing the assault.
Because survivors often keep their stories quiet, trends like #MeToo can be an opportunity to expose how rampant sexual violence against women actually is.
People Couldn't Handle Hearing
Even the best-meaning people can create environments which silence survivors, as user Beth Moore pointed out.
For many users, #MeToo was the first time they publicly addressed their experiences.
#MeToo was filled with stories of women being taken advantage of by men in positions of power.
Assault on public transportation was an unsettlingly common theme among women participating in the hashtag, including this one user who says she was mocked for yelling while being assaulted.
Another theme frequently touched upon was women being told that they took their experiences too seriously, as if sexual assault and harassment could ever be "not that bad."
Convince Yourself It Didn't Actually Happen
The legal hoops, the social stigma, and the process of re-traumatizing yourself can all dissuade a survivor from reporting her experience. Many feel it can be easier to say nothing at all.
First Company I Worked For
An alarming number of women said they were underage when they were assaulted and harassed by men in their lives.
Many, including user @eringhere, lamented feeling like their assault "wasn't that bad" compared to other women's stories, and then grappling with the damaging effect of placing value judgements on assault.
Sexual assault and harassment can feel so hopelessly pervasive that survivors are sometimes manipulated into believing that what happened to them could or should be normalized.
Silent Because I Was Scared
There were seemingly infinite women who reported feeling too scared to speak out about and report their experiences to authorities.
Talk Me Out Of Pressing Charges
Even law enforcement, frequently, can feel like a barrier to reporting and prosecuting perpetrators.
One way that rape culture normalizes assault is by teaching, especially children, that hitting and name-calling is a way to show affection.
#MeToo participants were scathingly blunt about their bad experiences, including with the legal systems they depended on to protect them.
Tell Me This Isn't A Problem
One participant pointed out one of the many ways in which women are socialized into being persistently fearful and on guard against potential assaults.
Recounting sexual assault and harassment can be re-traumatizing, and while participants gathered to support each other, user Karen Kaltenheuser pointed out that survivors shouldn't feel guilty if the hashtag was triggering a negative emotional response.
One user recounted being assaulted by a friend who knew that she was particularly vulnerable that day. Like hundreds of other women participating in the hashtag, she recalled the particular horror of being abused by someone who knew her.
Sexual assault is such a pervasive problem that it sometimes feels like it's a universal experience.
Not Sure I Know A Woman Who Wasn't
Sexual abuse is so common, and it comes in so many forms, that one user said she wasn't sure she knew a woman who hasn't experienced it in one form or another.
Danisha Carter suggested that male onlookers should use the #MeToo hashtag to reconsider their own passive accountability, especially when the perprator is their friend.
The tweets continued to roll in through Sunday night and into Monday morning. As #MeToo illustrated, the truth is in the numbers. Sexual assault is pervasive, and its survivors will not be silent.