In 2017, the world witnessed a watershed moment that challenged the sustained silence and violent stigma surrounding sexual abuse. In October last year, the New York Times published a story detailing nearly three decades of reports by women accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment. Three days later, he was fired from the Weinstein Company. But Harvey Weinstein’s accusations were just the tip of a very destructive iceberg—one with the power to sink ships and dramatically alter shorelines. As the public outrage grew more pronounced and intense, more women, some victims of Weinstein, others not, began to come forward.
A cascade of high-profile men from the entertainment industry have since been accused of sexual misconduct that ranged from inappropriate comments to rape. Among them are Kevin Spacey, Ed Westwick, Louis CK, Bill Cosby, James Franco, and many other celebrities. The victims, or as TIME named them, “The Silence Breakers”, were young actresses, mentees, and celebrities such as Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and more. But behind these famous faces was an army of ordinary voices using social media to collectively tell their stories and denounce the “Weinsteins” in their life. The #MeToo movement—originallyfounded in 2006 by Tarana Burke—became popular and sought “empowerment through empathy.” Indeed, an incredibly powerful movement was born when thousands of women and men broke the silence and shared their stories using #MeToo. As the movement gained momentum, many began to use the hashtag to express their solidarity and empathy; instead of just to share their own experience.
The social media movement solidified at the 2018 Golden Globes, where most attendees wore black to support the Time’s Up movement, an initiative against sexual violence. Time’s Up partnered with advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies; and enable more women and men to access the legal system to hold their predators accountable. The series of events that unfolded in 2017, as painful and uncomfortable as they were, served to break the silence, open a discussion, and start a movement.
Chances are that at this point, you have heard discussions about sexual violence in your classroom, within your community, or perhaps you have even shared your own story. We must not let these stories fade and we need to act against sexual violence as a society and as individuals. Ways of standing against sexual violence include—but are not limited to—avoiding to engage in and stopping “locker-room talk,” believing victims if they share their story, supporting initiatives like Time’s Up, encouraging the leadership and workforce of your organization to update its sexual assault policy, and many more. We do this in pursuit of the world where, as Oprah said in her Golden Globes speech, “Nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.”
Check out Oprah’s Golden Globes speech below.