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How the #MeToo Movement Is Spreading Awareness About Sexual Assault

In case you missed it, the recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein have generated an important conversation about sexual assault in Hollywood, and beyond. Just by last week, 38 actresses have come forward with allegations about the movie executive. But last night, 10 days after the initial story dropped, the #MeToo movement was born, making it obvious that sexual assault and harassment are hardly exclusive to the film industry.

 

Actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter Sunday night with a simple request: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." It's a rallying cry is meant to shine a light on a problem that affects more than 300,000 people per year, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

In no time, women were sharing stories of their own experiences. Some, like Lady Gaga, have spoken out about their assault in the past. But others, in industries ranging from book publishing to medicine, admitted they were going public with their story for the first time. Some talked of horror stories with police, others of fears that they would be fired if anyone found out.

Attention surrounding sexual assault in Hollywood gained steam on social media when Twitter temporarily suspended Rose McGowan after she posted a series of tweets calling out powerful men in the business, including a tweet suggesting that Ben Affleck was lying about not knowing of Weinstein actions.

McGowan turned to Instagram to galvanize her fans, deeming them the #RoseArmy. As they fought to restore her account, celebrities continued to come forward. Among them, English model Cara Delevingne, who shared her story on Instagram, and actress Kate Beckinsale, who did the same.

Twitter revealed in The Atlantic that the hashtag had been shared half a million times in just 24 hours. If this number seems large, it's only a small fraction of the actual number of people affected by sexual violence each year. According to RAINN, America's largest anti–sexual violence organization, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every 98 secondsOne in every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. ("Stealthing" is also a huge problem—one that is finally being recognized as sexual assault.)

Milano started the hashtag with the intention of raising awareness about sexual assault and harassment in the U.S., and it seems she's doing just that. After noticing the hashtag, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: "This is how change happens, one brave voice at a time."

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