Alyssa Milano’s call for sexual abuse victims to come forward is going so viral
Last week, allegations against Harvey Weinstein reached the press, prompting dozens of women to come forward with complaints about the American film producer. He has so far been accused of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment - but maintains that all encounters he had were consensual.
Despite the numerous cases stacked against him, Weinstein has so far not been charged with any criminal offences. And, while he has been fired from his own company and removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he seems to have escaped public criticism from many of his peers, with some of them even expressing sympathy for him.
Even more astoundingly, some people have actually defended Weinstein, claiming that many of his accusers are lying or exaggerating their stories in order to garner some space in the public eye. But why would somebody think that? Why on earth would a woman risk her career, her respect, and her reputation in order to lie about a horrific violation against her body?
The problem is, many believe that women and other victims of assault are fabricating their claims, and that sexually-motivated attacks cannot possibly be that common - but that's because they aren't always reported.
As we have seen with the Harvey Weinstein cases, victims of assault often feel ashamed or threatened by the ordeal, and are reluctant to take the incident to the police. Moreover, the fear of having to face the attacker later on in court, of having to re-live the incident over and over again for the benefit of others, and then - after all that - of seeing the instigator walk free, is not worth the risk.
In order to demonstrate just how often these sorts of violations happen, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted this: "If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet."
Within just a matter of hours, 25,000 people had responded - many of them simply replying with those two words, and others elaborating on their experience.
The sheer magnitude of responses reminded Twitter users that, just because it's not something we talk about, it doesn't mean sexual assault is uncommon. More reassuringly, it also showed people that they are not alone, and that coming forward about such abuse is not something we should have to fear.
Along with confessions were messages of encouragement:
And of requests for a change in attitude:
Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Cara Delevingne are just a few of those who have come forward with claims against Weinstein. Their accounts - along with others - are reminders of other big names in Hollywood who have been accused of abusing their power and committing acts of sexual abuse against women and/or children; namely Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Roman Polanski.
Hopefully, the huge amount of responses from women and other victims around the world will reiterate the importance of taking sexual abuse claims seriously, and encourage people to refrain from victim-blaming or shaming.
In light of recent events, a spokesperson released this statement on behalf of Harvey Weinstein: "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances."
Weinstein himself has yet to comment further.