We now know that influential figures, like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, have been exploiting women and men for decades. They actively used their power to satiate their own twisted desires. As a result, people felt alone as victims to their abuse. They were afraid of losing their careers, getting death threats, and having to rehash it repeatedly to our legal system (if they even review their case).
Harvey Weinstein targeted A-listers like Uma Thurman, Gwenyth Paltrow, Courtney Love, Asia Argento, Cate Blanchett, Cara Delevigne, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, and Kate Beckinsale. They have all relived the sexual coersion and violence amidst backlash from Hollywood executives and media outlets less willing to stand behind them. Bill Cosby came under fire after Hannibal Buress, in October of 2014, centered a comedy bit on his predatory behavior, which were shocking allegations to be making at that time. Before that, nobody considered the validity of the 14 women who had accused him of rape only 10 years earlier.
But now we have an artillery in the Internet. More and more people can get together, share their trauma, and work together as victims to become a collective group of resilient survivors. The use of hashtags, especially on Twitter, unleashed a storm of people brave enough to raise their voices on this very sensitive topic.
Alyssa Milano, who you may know from the TV show "Charmed," urged her followers to use the #MeToo so that awareness could spread. And it did, in a huge way. Milano wrote, "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." The public response was explosive. Thousands of people liked, retweeted, and commented.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. https://t.co/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa Milano) 1508098871.0
Even though it originally seemed contained to Hollywood's power dynamics, the hashtag pulled the wool off the eyes of many, revealing that this issue extends to the everyday person. Tweets shown on an NBC News article gave a chance to make these voices heard:
"#MeToo I have been fired from jobs for not sleeping with the boss, fired for not letting customers grab me (Hooters), groped, up-skirt photographed without my knowledge, kissed without permission, and more... it sucks thinking about this stuff" — Amanda Yennie (@ayennie34), December 7th, 2017
"I was in my mid 20's. I lost one job because I would not 'cooperate' with my manager. I consulted a lawyer and was told, "You definitely have a case, however, if you pursue this, word will get around Nashville about the case & no one will ever hire you again." So I had to drop it." — Greta Kirby (@fuelup250), December 6th, 2017
"#MeToo. A college prof once told me 'boys will be boys' when a classmate sexually assaulted me." — Nora (@Chrysalishealin), October 23rd, 2017
"#metoo professor at theatre school loved to comment on my busty clothing. I'm proud I went to my school's HR but still fear retaliation." — Kristin Heckler (@kheckler7), October 24th, 2017
These tweets reveal the harsh reality of systematic fear tactics that keep survivors out of the public eye. Whether or not rape kits are collected, there needs to be more efficient means of gathering evidence and legitimacy to a criminal case involving sexual violence or harassment. According to End The Backlog, "It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country in what is known as the rape kit backlog." Even though the backlog remains untouched, more hurdles exist to stand in the way of justice for victims of sexual violence.
A more recent case of systematic injustice involves R. Kelly. He's a blatant example of a predator who is allowed special legal immunity because of his status as a hit producer. Yet just recently, CNN released news of R. Kelly being "indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse — a class two felony — involving four alleged victims, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said Friday." The climate catalyzed by the #MeToo movement has forced the law to rip the star-stricken veil off the eyes of the law, finally extending justice to the survivors of his abuse.
"R. Kelly's arrest is the culmination of DECADES of work by black women activists, and the brave victims who have been demanding justice. Sending love and light to Kelly's victims. No matter what happens, we stand with you." — Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites), February 22nd, 2019