Sexual assault in Hollywood is nothing new. It’s been going on for years but has recently made its way back to the spotlight, thanks to the numerous amount of brave women coming forward.
Many women are explicitly speaking out against being sexually harassed and assaulted by producer Harvey Weinstein. Since The New York Times published its story on Weinstein on October 8, more than 60 women have accused him of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.
Harvey Weinstein, now 65, has been in the movie industry for over 20 years. Although these allegations have not come until recently, Weinstein has a history of sexually harassing women he works with. Many women kept quiet out of fear, including one of the most recent victims to speak out, Italian actress and director Asia Argento.
Argento admitted to The New Yorker that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her but kept quiet after the incident out of fear that Weinstein would crush her.
“I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento says. “That’s why this story—in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older—has never come out.”
Like Argento, many women who’ve been sexually harassed in Hollywood have been scared to speak out—until now.
The #MeToo campaign was sparked by a tweet shared by Alyssa Milano in the midst of all the allegations against Weinstein. On October 15, Milano tweeted “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Accompanying her tweet was an image with a message saying, “Me too. Suggested by a friend: 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.”
The hashtag immediately went viral, with men and women replying to the tweet and sharing their stories. It’s become so widespread that it had over 1.7 million tweets in 85 countries as of October 24, according to CBS News.
Among the millions responding to Milano’s tweet were celebrities America Ferrera, Gabrielle Union, Cara Delevingne and Evan Rachel Wood, among others. Many high profile celebrities also spoke up about their experiences of being sexually harassed and assaulted in Hollywood.
While sexual assault is a big problem in Hollywood, it is also a problem in many other industries and workplaces, especially for women. According to a survey done by Cosmopolitan in 2015, one in three women experience sexual harassment at work, and a study done by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that 75 percent of workplace harassment victims suffered retaliation when they spoke up.
This has been the case for the many women in Hollywood who were targeted by Weinstein. Weinstein would threaten actresses careers or slander their name in the media if they did not engage with him. This tactic is commonly used by sexual predators as their way of trying to silence and isolate the victim.
A majority of sexual assault cases are unreported, and according to Vox, when people do come forward, it’s usually when others around them do. This has been proven true in the midst of the allegations against Weinstein, as many women are coming forward.
During an interview with Good Morning America, actress and victim Ashley Judd shared her experience of working with Weinstein. In the interview, she spoke on how she remains hopeful for the future, and in that, Weinstein and men like him get the help they need.
“Only if men and women work together, can we change all this for good,” she says. “I think this is the moment. And if we want it to be the moment, it for sure will be the moment.”
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and need crisis support, please contact the National Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-44673.