For more than twenty years, accusations of sexual harassment and assault have circled around Harvey Weinstein, the powerful Hollywood executive behind such independent films as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love, and a major contributor to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Now, these accusations have been exposed following reports by both the New York Times and The New Yorker, which published accounts of multiple women who alleged Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Some of Weinstein's accusers include A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rose McGowan.
In response to the outrage against Weinstein and prevalence of sexual harassment, actress Alyssa Milano, McGowan's co-star in the television series Charmed, sparked a social media campaign on Twitter by asking survivors of sexual harassment or assault to share a message of solitary using two words— "me too."
In less than two days, Milano's status has received thousands of replies from Twitter users and celebrities alike, including Oscar-winners Viola Davis and Anna Paquin, recounting their experiences as survivors.
Although Milano sparked this particular the conversation, Tarana Burke — a black woman — is credited with creating the "Me Too" movement 10 years ago to unite people who have survived sexual violence.
The conversation opened up the floodgates from people of all genders and sexual orientations, showing the magnitude of sexual assault and intimidation in different communities and different industries. The viral social campaign represents a ground shift on issues that for far too long have lurked in the shadows and brings real accountability to individuals often seen as untouchable.
Weinstein has been fired from the film company he started, and in the middle of rampant sexual harassment accusations earlier this year, conservative Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was ousted from the network as was his boss, Roger Ailes. It's an unfortunate reality that many people will continue to fall victim to sexual predators, but #metoo is putting the bad guys on watch.
What you can do:
As a survivor of sexual assault, it may be difficult to come forward to talk about your experiences, but there are free and confidential means of receiving help for those in need of it.
RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in America and offers help to survivors 24/7 through their National Sexual Assault Hotline via phone and online chat. If you are a survivor of sexual assault and are looking to talk to someone anonymously this is a great resource.
RAINN also conducts anti-sexual assault public education programming, and advocates for public policy reform to assist survivors in getting justice. If you're interested in supporting RAINN's work, make a donation.
PAVE is a sexual violence prevention organization dedicated to educating students, parents and civic leaders about how to end sexual misconduct. They offer support for survivors, friends of survivors and parents of survivors as well. If you're looking to take action today, here's how you can join in PAVE's mission.
And then some:
In September, when most college students are returning to school, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era guidelines under Title IX federal law that once protected sexual assault survivors on campus. In response, Democrats, led by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, have introduced the Title IX Protection Act, which is a bill that will ensure the rights of survivors.
No matter which side of the political aisle you may be on if you feel strongly about preventing sexual assault and shoring up protections for survivors then reach out to your elected officials about the Title IX Protection act.