A new hashtag is flooding social media, encouraging people who've experienced sexual assault or violence to speak up.
Sexual assault is not a new issue, but this new initiative, started by a celebrity, is to show how alarming the number of victims there are and to encourage people to start speaking up to put an end to the problem.
On October 5th, the New York Times came out with a piece about a famous Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. The article claims that Weinstein has paid off multiple actresses, including $100,000 to Rose McGowan, to keep them quiet about sexual harassment claims. To which, Weinstein's team of PR agents and attorneys say he "'unequivocally' denied 'any allegations of non-consensual sex'". Since these allegations, Weinstein has been stripped of his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and removed from his own 'Weinstein Company' board.
After this article, Hollywood began to take notice, and to stand up. CNN writes that Alyssa Milano started the viral trend by posting this: "Suggested by a friend. 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 magnitude of the problem". That is when the #MeToo movement set fire across the internet.
Locally, Jan Stork knows first-hand the fear and feelings of being a victim of a sexual incident, 30 years ago. "I had an incident where a boss tried to force himself on me," she tells us. "I was lucky to have a very supportive family. It took me several weeks before I went to his boss and said, 'I think you need to know what happened.' He was fired".
Now joining a powerful movement on social media, two simple words with a big meaning, "me too".
"When I first saw the campaign," says Jan, "I think, like a lot of people, I was hesitant to share any part of my story. But when I saw how many people have been affected by this over the years I thought it's an important topic and I should share what I have been through."
On Twitter, the #MeToo campaign skyrocketing with new tweets by the minute and experts say this social media campaign is encouraging both men and women to come forward with their stories. Robin Young of SafeNet tells us, "It helps them feel it's okay to talk about because, too often, when you think about sexual assault or sexual abuse or even sexual harassment, people are afraid to say it." SafeNet responding to the viral hashtag with this sign: "We Believe You".
Jan says, "I was very surprised that my friends who'd been through something similar that I didn't know about. So we aren't talking about it... If you're silent, nothing will ever change."
SafeNet says they serve around 2,000 people each year in the city of Erie, and those are just the ones who come forward. Assault takes many forms, and it does not discriminate and can affect anyone at anytime.
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