Thousands Share Sexual Harassment Stories With #MeToo Hashtag
Thousands of women and men from around the world have been tweeting the hashtag #MeToo today to demonstrate the magnitude of sexual harassment.
It follows numerous actresses, including A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, making accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein including rape and sexual assault.
The latest prominent hashtag, #MeToo, has been used hundreds of thousands of times by brave men and women who have been sharing their stories and stressing the importance of addressing sexual violence.
The term gained momentum after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged those who have experienced sexual violence to come forward on social media standing together.
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the problem.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.
Since then thousands of people have responded, including celebrities Evan Rachel Wood, Lady Gaga, Anna Paquin and Debra Messing.
21-year-old Michaela Ormrod, student officer at the University of Lincoln, is one of the women who responded to Milano’s request.
#MeToo the fact that it’s nerve-racking for us to even hashtag this shows how much sexual abuse and harassment needs to be spoken about.
As a survivor of sexual abuse that went on for a long period of time, its scary how much it affects your life and how hard it is to accept.
Michaela, who was sexually abused for a couple of years when she was younger, spoke to UNILAD about why she decided to tweet today.
I think it’s really important because it helps make sexual harassment real.
We have been reading a lot about celebrity women and how they have been affected by sexual harassment and assault lately and I think allowing ‘normal’ people to become involved and relate to those they look up to is a really big step.
I was really nervous about sharing it because I think it’s one of those things you don’t always think about on a daily basis and you get on with your life but when you’re having to confront it, it brings it all to life again.
But I feel relieved and glad I’ve done it now and even just people favouriting my tweet in support is such a good feeling and a weight off my shoulders.
I think most people have been through some form of sexual harassment which is upsetting and the hashtag has shown the huge impact that it has had on everyone’s lives.
Connie Lynn, a 22-year-old technology consultant from Indianapolis, also tweeted using the hashtag speaking about the day-to-day sexual harassment she experienced.
Because she doesn’t have a car, Connie walks everywhere and told UNILAD that ‘it is more rare to have a day when I am not catcalled, touched or stalked than to have a day when I am’.
I used to show up at my boyfriend’s apartment crying because I felt so scared and objectified from the walk over there. #MeToo
Connie also told me why she believes this topic is suddenly trending on Twitter and how people are responding to it.
It deeply upsets me the way some people think they can treat women and how easily this mentality is passed from generation to generation or how quickly some people will brush off legitimate concerns about sexually predatory behaviour.
Sadly, I believe that the topic is trending because so many women have been harassed, objectified, or worse and have a story to tell.
These women (and men) are afraid to share their stories because we are often torn down rather than supported.
I haven’t read all of the replies, but my original tweet has a thread of users calling me a coward, attention-seeking, and other insults.
This is why people are afraid to speak up.
As Connie mentioned, men also experience sexual violence and are often afraid to share their stories.
22-year-old Andrew is one of those men and tweeted using the hashtag #MeToo today writing that ‘we are never alone’.
Experiencing two groping incidents during his time at university, Andrew has always been nervous speaking about this topic and it is solidarity movements such as this one on Twitter which has encouraged him to open up.
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Andrew told UNILAD that he is grateful this hashtag is allowing men to discuss their experiences as well as women.
For all that #MeToo is doing, the dialogue around sexual assault has gone globally specifically with a focus on men preying on women.
It’s important to remember that this, while indeed the overwhelming perception, is not just a male-on-female issue.
It is an issue that is just as much female-on-male, female-on-female, male-on-male, male-on-trans – effectively, this is something that concerns every gender.
Andrew also spoke to UNILAD about why he thinks men are less likely to speak about their experiences with sexual violence.
Sexual assault leaves an individual with a sense of helplessness, of loneliness and confusion.
As a man, stereotypical perceptions of what constitutes maleness among large demographics means that there is often the pressure to hold up a mask of masculinity.
If men look in the mirror in the morning and see fear, they reject it outright, refuse to entertain the notion.
Because if they accept fear, they see it as diluting their strength.
But admitting that you feel scared and isolated by this is a far more powerful strength than any gained through conformity.
People of all ages have been sharing the hashtag, including 52-year-old Chris Spencer Smith, a university union officer.
Chris wrote about his experience being sexually abused as a child.
From personal experience, it’s not just women who are the victims of rape and sexual abuse – men and boys too are ashamed to share.
I was 11 – Now I am 52 – With me every day for 41 years – will haunt me forever. Life sentence for me but not for the perpetrator #MeToo
Chris told UNILAD how sharing a tweet such as the one he wrote, is all part of the healing process.
Reading and sharing is cathartic- it’s anonymous to a certain extent.
You can hear about and ‘talk’ to others with similar experiences which is good.
It encourages people who have told no one or hardly anyone to share their experience or off load.
I know this from personal experience having kept my ‘dirty little secret’ for nearly 30 years. I have only just told my mother.
It’s the shame you see, it grips you tightly around the throat so that you can’t speak
You realise that you are not alone and not to blame
Rape and sexual violence charities such as The Survivors Trust are welcoming the hashtag, hoping that it will help survivors find the support they need.
A spokesperson told UNILAD:
We welcome the hashtag #MeToo as we also hope the magnitude of people affected by sexual harassment/abuse will be recognised.
Survivors/victims often carry feelings of guilt and shame which can prevent them from speaking out and accessing support.
This hashtag is so important as it offers solidarity and affirmation in such a simple way as well as highlighting how ubiquitous sexual assault/harassment is.
That so many people have come forward shows that this is not an isolated problem, there is strength and comfort in numbers and it’s time to put that guilt and shame back onto the perpetrators.
If you have been affected by sexual violence, you can call The Survivors Trust on 0808 801 0818.