All this past week, social media flooded with personal stories of sexual assault documented under the hashtag, “#MeToo.” The “#MeToo” movement was sparked as a response to the continuing Harvey Weinstein scandal For those victims that used “#MeToo,” it is to indicate that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted and to show solidarity with the millions of other women in the world.
Apparently, social media blew up because the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you ‘ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘ME TOO’ as a reply to this tweet,” and included a note that read, “ME TOO. 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.”
Milano, who is a close friend to one of Weinstein’s alleged victims, later wrote, “Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are not just about Harvey Weinstein… we must change things in general. We must do better for women everywhere.”
Soon, “#MeToo” began trending. Everyone from celebrities to students and even some men even added their voices. Soon, “#MeToo” took over Facebook and Instagram too. Additionally, it went internationally, with reports of French women also tweeting their experiences of being sexually harassed at work using a similar meaning hashtag “#BalanceTonPorc” meaning “SQUEAL ON YOUR PIG.”
However, Milano is not the originator of the movement. It was actually started by the activist Tarana Burke more than ten years ago.
In 1996, when Burke was a youth camp director a young girl asked to speak to Burke privately in order to tell her a deep secret. According to Burke’s website:
“For the next several minutes this child … struggled to tell me about her ‘stepdaddy’ or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body. … I was horrified by her words, the emotions welling inside of me ran the gamut, and I listened until I literally could not take it anymore … which turned out to be less than five minutes. Then, right in the middle of her sharing her pain with me, I cut her off and immediately directed her to another female counselor who could ‘help her better.’ ”
“The shock of being rejected, the pain of opening a wound only to have it abruptly forced closed again — it was all on her face…I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that nothing that happened to her was her fault. I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured. … I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too.”
That moment was the real birth of the “#MeToo” movement.
Burke later explained, “On one side, it’s a bold declarative statement that ‘I’m not ashamed’ and ‘I’m not alone.’ On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it,'”
Burke is happy to see her idea reach a larger audience and take on a new life of its own. This only support’s her message and empowers the bond she wanted women to have.
“I’ve seen it happen over and over again in small waves, but to see it happen en masse has been pretty amazing,” Burke said.
These two simple words are a powerful reminder that sexual harassment and discrimination is an enormous problem in our modern society, even if no one sees it firsthand and the victim does not disclose the horrible facts.
If you feel you have suffered discrimination or sexual harassment on the job or at your college campus, call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation to discuss your possible claim. Our attorneys are available to review your claims and prepare a solid case to recover the damages and justice you deserved.