#MeToo: two words that broke the silence around sexual abuse

When the New York Times broke the story about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexually assaulting and harassing women, it threw into focus what women have been talking about for even longer – sexual abuse is rife and society never believes the survivors. Since then more and more women in the entertainment industry have come forward, telling of their experiences with Weinstein and other powerful men.

When actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet on Sunday asking women to reply “me too” if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted to show the magnitude of the problem, the response was huge. To date, the tweet has had over 57 000 replies and made #MeToo trend all over the world.

All of Monday, thousands of people shared their stories and South Africans also joined the conversation.

South African actresses have also spoken out about the sexual harassment they experience in the entertainment industry. But it’s not just in the entertainment industry where women are sexually violated, catcalled, groped, or raped.

The number of sexual offences that have occurred in this country increased by 110% between 2016 and 2017. So it’s no surprise that the hashtag resonated here.

For some there were too many stories to share.

Another tweeter highlighted that sexual violence is something that happens to men too.

These two simple words reminded South Africans that they are not alone.

The hashtag shows that every person you know may have experienced sexual assault and harassment. It’s a gross indictment on the attitudes society has about men, women, sex, and power. But it’s not enough to keep asking people to speak out about their experiences of harassment and abuse. As one person suggested, we also need to engage with the people that rape and abuse their power.

Featured image via US Air Force