#MeToo asks sexual assault survivors to share stories, hashtag goes viral

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – For Carrie Neal Walden, a job at a commercial insurance company became a nightmare the day a manager touched her inappropriately, an advance he made in public.As a mid-level employee, she didn’t want to press legal charges in the corporate environment a few years ago. But now, Walden, who works in public health advocacy in the Charleston-area, used the hashtag #MeToo to speak out on that incident. “This has been very visible and I’ve participated in it,” said Walden. “That’s not even the worst thing that has happened to me, but that’s the story I shared as my status (on Facebook).”Walden decided to join thousands using #MeToo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share personal experiences of sexual assault and harassment. Stories like hers exploded this past week, while others simply wrote, “Me too,” and left few details, in the wake of the sexual assault and harassment scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.The frank two words “me too” have sparked a broader conversation across social media. Mackie Moore, executive director at Thrive in Charleston, S.C., said social media movements like this are positive and have a powerful effect on survivors. Moore, whose nonprofit helps women of domestic violence, believes she is seeing things change when it comes to topics like sexual assault and harassment, which are being discussed in new ways. “This has been the whole problem the whole time about domestic violence and sexual assault… a majority of the cases aren’t even reported,” Moore said. “It’s very important to me that women are finally getting out there and speaking about it.”The hashtag also pushed men to think about their own personal responsibility — whether it’s reflecting on times they did not speak up about instances where women faced hostility or took casual part in inappropriate jokes.“It is becoming safer for women to come out in the media. And men need to have more respect for women,” said Cortez Marie, a Charleston resident.Still, there are critics of the #MeToo campaign, including people arguing it encourages victimization.#MeToo is the latest popular hashtag that asks survivors to share experiences. While many have shared their experiences, Laysa de la Parra, a resident of Mount Pleasant, S.C., said those posting are only a fraction of the women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. “Just because they didn’t post it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to them,” she said.De la Parra said the movement is one of solidarity and made her more sensitive to those struggling with assault and any type of harassment.

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