In The Wake Of Harvey Weinstein Scandal, Women Say #MeToo

Oct 16, 2017
Originally published on October 17, 2017 11:28 am

The news of Harvey Weinstein's expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the weekend is prompting victims to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

The academy ousted the powerful Hollywood producer over multiple abuse allegations, prompting social media users around the world to proclaim a simple idea: that sexual abuse is a common experience in women's lives.

The tweets and other social media posts — mostly from women, but also other survivors — describe a culture of silence around sexual assault.

Others condense traumatic moments into 140 characters.

Miranda Yaver of New Haven, Conn., said she began talking more about her assault in the wake of the Access Hollywood video released just before Donald Trump was elected President last year, in which he can be heard bragging about touching women's genitals without consent.

"I think that when you see more and more powerful people in Hollywood and business, etc, coming out and saying that this isn't acceptable or that this happened to them, I think that [it] becomes easier for us to voice our concerns," Yaver said.

The hashtag #metoo emerged over the weekend after Weinstein's ouster, when it was picked up by celebrities and thousands of social media users.

Megan Nobert, an abuse survivor and founder of a nonprofit focused on sexual assault of humanitarian aid workers, pointed out how pervasive harassment and assault has been in her life.

Nobert said the fact that this scandal involves Hollywood celebrities has emboldened some victims to speak out on social media.

"When it's somebody that you see on TV, in the media, on movies, people that you admire, that you think are interesting and funny and attractive – and it happened to them – it makes it suddenly more real," she said.

Leigh Gilmore, a women's and gender studies professor at Wellesley College, said the high-profile nature of the Weinstein scandal is bringing needed attention to the issue of sexual abuse, but it's not enough. She's also author of the book Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives.

"This is about refuting a toxic culture of violence that's larger than any particular male predator like Harvey Weinstein," Gilmore said. "And I hope we don't miss our chance to really make some kind of transformation in daily life about sexual abuse and sexual harassment by simply scapegoating one powerful man."

Moments like this that can mark cultural shifts, said Lisa Huebner, associate professor of women's and gender studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

"I think it's gonna be one of those moments in time that we will look back on," she said. "It helps a lot of people individually, I think, and it also will help us to mark publicly that this is a widespread occurrence, and it's not okay."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

People around the world are coming forward on social media to share their stories of sexual abuse. They're inspired by the many women who have accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and worse. NPR's Sarah McCammon has more.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: The tweets mostly from women but also some men condense some of their most traumatic moments into 140 characters.

HALEY EPEMA: My tweet is, because this is the hardest thing I've ever tweeted #MeToo.

TRILLIA NEWBELL: Me too - the amount of shame and shaming around sexual assault is terrible.

ABBYLEIGH CHARBONNEAU: How many generations of women have endured the same feelings across the world, across time in history?

MIRANDA YAVER: The second time I was raped was my last year of graduate school. I never reported it. I concealed my injuries and taught the next morning - me too.

MCCAMMON: Those voices in order are Haley Epema from Michigan, Trillia Newbell of Nashville, Abbyleigh Charbonneau in Maine and Miranda Yaver from Connecticut, speaking via Skype. Yaver says she began talking about her assault in the wake of the "Access Hollywood" video released just before Donald Trump was elected president last year in which he can be heard bragging about touching women's genitals without consent.

YAVER: I think that when we see more and more powerful people in Hollywood and business, et cetera, coming out and saying that this isn't acceptable or that this happened to them - I think that it becomes easier for us to voice our concerns.

MCCAMMON: The hashtag #MeToo emerged over the weekend after Weinstein's ouster when it was picked up by celebrities and thousands of social media users. Leigh Gilmore is a visiting women's studies professor at Wellesley College and author of the book "Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives."

LEIGH GILMORE: This is about refuting a toxic culture of violence that's larger than any particular individual male predator like Harvey Weinstein.

MCCAMMON: She says the high-profile nature of the Weinstein scandal has brought renewed attention to the issue, but she hopes it doesn't stop there.

GILMORE: I hope we don't miss our chance to really make some kind of transformation in daily life about sexual abuse and sexual harassment by simply scapegoating one powerful man.

MCCAMMON: Gilmore says she hopes as more powerful abusers are held accountable, fewer victims will have to say, me too. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.

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