Sexual assault. These two words have a kind of power over people. Many are afraid to speak out about it, whether it happened to them or to someone they know. In the United States alone, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.       

So why is it pushed under the rug so much? Society today is a huge factor. Some tend to keep quiet due to being called a liar, attention seeking and so on.

The recent conversation has been started by the news of Harvey Weinstein’s past of harassing women. In light of the accusation against Weinstein, talking about sexual harassment and assault has once again become relevant. Dozens and dozens of women have surfaced, like Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow, accusing Weinstein of mistreatment.

Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and the co-founder of blockbuster-film producing Miramax. His production company has given birth to top films, such as “Pulp Fiction,” “The Crying Game” and “Clerks.”  Due to the recent allegations, Weinstein was pulled from his position at Miramax and banned from The Academy.

Weinstein built a Hollywood reputation as the producer who picks the best films and could do it all. These recent allegations obviously hurt his reputation but do not mean his career is doomed.

The top producer is not the first offender in Hollywood caught as an abuser of power. Others, such as Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, have also been included in the group of sexual abusers in Hollywood.

On Sunday, Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted out a challenge for victims by stating, “If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” giving rise to the trending hashtag #MeToo. 

This tweet alone has gathered over 23,000 retweets since Sunday and has sparked a huge conversation online. Many replied by uttering the words “me too,” without any follow-up. Others tweeted #MeToo and shared their own words of encouragement for victims or personal stories.

In a blog post about Weinstein last week, Milano stated, “While I am sickened and angered over the disturbing accusations of Weinstein’s sexual predation and abuse of power, I’m happy — ecstatic even — that it has opened up a dialogue around the continued sexual harassment, objectification and degradation of women.”

Other celebrities have taken the time to speak up, such as Lady Gaga and Debra Messing.

Gabrielle Union also took to Twitter in a series of tweets to share her story:

“Sexual violence & harassment can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere. People remain silent 4 many different very personal reasons. Judgment, victim shaming/blaming, loss of job/money, fear of violence, retaliation. Folks are also very open and obvious about what kind of victim should be prioritized & believed. To think otherwise is to be willfully dim. In Hollywood meetings in homes, hotel lobbies/restaurants/suites, private isolated office space is the norm. NO ONE ‘ASKED FOR IT!!’. Sexual or physical violence, harassment, demeaning language is NOT the price one should pay for seeking or maintaining employment. Period. Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless shoe store. I had on a long tunic & leggings so miss me w/ “dress modestly” s—. Though I was raped by a stranger who raped me at gunpoint after robbing the store, I was still asked by a female “friend” what I had worn. Look around, u can EASILY see whose pain is “real/valid” and must be addressed and whose pain is tolerable, unimportant & systematically ignored”.

Famous people have not been the only people that have used this time to speak up about. With this hashtag, it is chilling to see how peers and people around the globe have been damaged emotionally, mentally and physically due to sexual assault.

With the current claims against Weinstein, it is clear that sexual assault is a topic that needs to become a bigger discussion. There are new victims every day, many lacking the courage to speak out. Weinstein is just one man. Many abusers are still walking with no consequences

Reading a story as heartbreaking as Union’s piece shows how someone can be affected by sexual abuse in more ways than one. But #MeToo is showing that Union’s story is only one out of millions. Milano using her voice to inspire others to speak up takes an unbelievable amount of bravery and shows how much it takes out of someone to speak up.

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