#MeToo: Women are sharing their experiences of sexual assault, showing how common sex crimes are

The power of three (or more).
The power of three (or more).
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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In tweets tagged #MeToo on Twitter, or in Facebook status updates with the two words, women are sharing their experiences showing just how everyday sexual harassment and assault are. They have written of being groped or leered at by classmates their age when their bodies started to change, and of having been told to laugh them off. They’ve described being with male coworkers as they rated women on whether they’d sleep with them or not. They’ve described harassment or assault at white-collar jobs, factories, and in the military. And some have described the lasting trauma of childhood abuse or rape. A friend of mine wrote about an attempted assault by a former partner.

Some women said this was the first time they had finally identified a past experience as one of harassment or assault. Men, and trans women and men, also shared their stories.

The wave of messages began on Sunday, and some reports credited actor Alyssa Milano, who rose to fame in the 1980s as a child star in the sitcom Who’s the Boss?, for setting off the tweeting around the hashtag.

But some tweets posted prior to Milano’s message had also used the hashtag.

The posts echo the outpouring of personal experiences of misogyny in the 2014 #YesAllWomen campaign in the wake of a mass shooting by a man who cited rejection by women among his reasons for the violent rampage.

Sunday’s messages follow a New York Times article published this month detailing multiple settlements paid over allegations of sexual harassment by studio executive Harvey Weinstein. Following the article’s publication, Weinstein was fired from the film company he co-founded. Since then, several women, including Rose McGowan, Milano’s former co-star on the WB show Charmed, have publicly alleged that Weinstein raped them, and police have opened investigations in the US and Britain. A spokeswoman for Weinstein has said he unequivocally denies any allegations of nonconsensual sex. He has also said that he is seeing therapists and trying to change. The allegations have set off conversations on social media and offline about the presence of sexual harassment, why it’s so prevalent, and what can be done about it.

Yet, while many are heralding this as a key moment of change, some are more skeptical. Bret Stephens, writing in the Times, noted silence over decades from many people and institutions now professing shock over what appears to have been an open secret.

Many in Hollywood, including Milano, took several days to comment on the revelations. The actor has written on her website that she initially didn’t speak publicly about Weinstein out of respect for his wife, Georgina Chapman, and has directed a series of tweets at McGowan in recent days.