WASHINGTON, D.C.: Actress Alyssa Milano has sparked a huge outpouring with a simple Twitter request that women respond “me too” if they have been sexually assaulted or harassed.
More than 27,000 people replied, making “#MeToo” the top trending topic through the day Sunday.
The avalanche of painful personal stories comes amid a series of high-profile sex abuse scandals – the latest centered around powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The intensity and breadth of the response underscored how the problem extends well beyond the rich and famous, affecting the everyday lives of women around the world.
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” Milano wrote.
In France, a similar campaign with the top-trending hashtag #balancetonporc (“Expose the pig”) saw women share their experiences of being sexually harassed at work or in the street.
It was started by Sandra Muller, a journalist who began the hashtag by recounting how her former boss had called her “my type of woman” and then commented on her breasts.
Many women in the US and France appeared to be speaking out for the first time about abuses they had suffered, often saying they had to overcome feelings of shame and embarrassment to do so.
Milano, 44, is best known for her teenybopper role in the hit ‘80s sitcom, “Who’s The Boss,” with comedian Tony Danza.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she posted on Twitter and Instagram.
The hashtag quickly became a trending topic across different social media platforms, with thousands of users—including celebrities—replying to Milano’s tweet and joining the cause. Among those who bravely posted their testimonies were Gabrielle Union, Debra Messing, Brooke Smith, Kristin Bauer, Sophia Bush, Rhea Butcher, Charlyne Yi, Anna Paquin, Gloria Calderon Kellett, writer producer Amy Aniobi, and pop superstar Lady Gaga.
Some women using the #metoo hashtag said they had been abused as children by relatives, or as a teenager by a person they trusted. That nobody believed them when they spoke about it emerged as a common refrain.
“I wish I could remember who I was before #MeToo,” a woman named Rosey wrote.
“Molested by a family member. Raped as a kid and an adult. Became a drug addict and then overcame. Don’t ever give up. I’m here#MeToo,” Amy Christensen said in her post.
“Sexual assaulted by a military doctor at Lackland AFB. 1973,” said DebiDay, referring to a US Air Force base in Texas.
“Me, too. I spoke out. What did I learn. That no one, absolutely no one, would listen, much less help,” said Lisa Omlid.
“If you are not at the point where you can share your #MeToo I stand with you,” Kelly Douglas wrote. “Your story is valid whether you share it or not.”
There were many sympathetic responses from men.
Vinay Ramesh encouraged “all my fellow men to learn about #MeToo. The responsibility to stop sexual violence is absolutely on us.”
“I feel disgusted and sad,” Ed Krassenstein wrote.
Although the overwhelming majority of the posts were personal in nature, the Weinstein scandal and US President Donald Trump’s videotaped boasts of groping women with impunity also drew comments.
“Just as I did after the #Trump tapes, I’m having flashbacks due to the Harvey Weinstein assault & rape allegations. Abuse is forever,” BuffieHippie wrote.
More than 20 women – a who’s who of Hollywood – have come forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, assault and sexual harassment.
Milano, probably best known for her role in the 1980s sitcom “Who’s the Boss,” is not among the accusers.
Weinstein was expelled this week from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A court document made public on Sunday revealed that Trump’s campaign has been subpoenaed for all documents related to assault allegations that emerged during his run for the presidency.
The subpoena is part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” who alleged he tried to kiss and grope her without her consent.
Aussie model is latest accuser
An Australian model said she was “played” by Harvey Weinstein and his colleagues who engineered a hotel room meeting where he stripped naked and demanded a massage, in the latest accusation against the Hollywood mogul.
Zoe Brock said she met Weinstein at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival when she was 23 and was seated next to him at a dinner, not realizing who he was.
Brock told Australia’s Channel Nine she went back to his hotel room with a group of his colleagues and they were eventually left alone.
“He left the room and came back naked,” she alleged late Sunday.
“He wanted a massage, and I didn’t want to give him one. I remember being quite frozen. He touched my back and shoulders, and I quickly knew that I couldn’t … and I got up and I ran.”
On reflection, she believes she was manipulated and targeted, not only by Weinstein but his accomplices who set up the situation.
“I had been played by not just one predator but all his accomplices. Yuck,” she said.
Brock is the latest in a long line of women to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape over the past week.
He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, but has been denounced by many in Hollywood with “Thor” stars Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth the latest to condemn his behavior.
“It’s absolutely intolerable and people should be filing criminal complaints against him. It was a crime what he was doing,” Ruffalo told the Sydney Morning Herald at the Sydney premiere of “Thor: Ragnarok” on Sunday evening.
Hemsworth said he believed the scandal would change Tinseltown for the better.
“Hopefully it will put a spotlight on the issue and people will change their thinking to what is acceptable and that it doesn’t occur [again]would be the best scenario,” he said.