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How — and why — #MeToo is uniting sexual assault survivors

“There was this community to support survivors and acceptance that you could speak up for the first time,” said Rachel Goldsmith of Safe Horizons.

After more than two dozen women recently came forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, thousands of others have joined them by saying “Me too” on social media.

The movement was sparked by a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano on Sunday afternoon. “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 wrote.

By Monday afternoon, the tweet had gone viral with more than 47,000 replies.

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“I see it as a sign that there are many women who have been experiencing sexual abuse/harassment throughout their lives and saw this as an opportunity to speak up and share their stories or a way to join the movement without talking about their experience,” said Rachel Goldsmith, associate vice present of domestic violence shelter programs at Safe Horizon, a victim assistance organization that is an affiliate of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). 

Metro: In a year in which we saw allegations against Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly come to light, why do the accusations against Weinstein seem to have struck a chord?

Rachel Goldsmith: I think every survivor’s experience is unique, so it’s difficult to say, but there was this community to support survivors and acceptance that you could speak up for the first time.

With so many women saying “Me too,” where can they go from here, especially those who may have shared their story for the first time?

At Safe Horizon, we want people to know that there are resources — you don’t have to process this alone. We have counselors; you can call our hotline, which takes 4,000 calls every year. There are services to help you, and there are no timelines for you to process your experience. You can reach out for support at any time.

How can women who may not be ready to discuss their experience process all this media coverage of Weinstein?

I encourage women to know they are not alone. There shouldn’t be an expectation on survivors to come forward. If you feel empowered to come forward, that’s great. But if you don’t, that’s also great. Perpetrators are the ones responsible for their behavior.

To that end, why do you think there is so much victim blaming after assault allegations come to light?

As a society, it’s hard for us to fully accept that people do this to other people, but these are things that are happening to women on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. 

Does a movement like #MeToo put sexual assault into perspective for those who may normally sweep it under the carpet?

It can, but it also takes an ongoing initiative. It can begin to raise awareness, (urge women) to continue to speak out, connect with service providers or reach out to different organizations. If this bothers you, there are things you can do with friends, family and work.

For more info or to seek help, visit safehorizon.org or call 800-621-HOPE. 
 

 
 
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