Durham County

#MeToo social media campaign gives people permission to have ‘real conversations’

Alyssa Milano’s tweet sparked an online trend promoting sexual violence awareness – #MeToo.
Alyssa Milano’s tweet sparked an online trend promoting sexual violence awareness – #MeToo.

It’s an idea encapsulated in two words: #MeToo.

Actress Alyssa Milano started it Sunday when she tweeted: “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.”

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote.

Women of all ages, races, sexual orientations and nationalities have heeded the call, sharing their experiences on social media with sexual harassment and sexual assault.

This online burst of awareness followed in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s dismissal from his own production company and expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after over a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Nichole Lewis, director of the N.C. Central University Women’s Center, said the #MeToo campaign could help change attitudes toward sexual violence on campus.

“Topics like #MeToo give people permission to begin real conversation,” she said. “It gives people a new universal nomenclature – of Me Too.”

Different communities see subject matters in different ways. In one group a topic may be spoken about casually, while in another be considered taboo.

Lewis said there are certainly taboo topics within “communities of color, the community of women of color and the community of women of color in the South.”

Sexual violence and sexual assault are often taboo subjects across all three of those cultures, she said.

The trend #MeToo, Lewis said, “gives people an invention to view and to recognize this person over here – who they’ve always viewed as fitting into a world position, not necessarily associated with sexual violence – also had that experience too.”

The NCCU Women’s Center holds monthly “Real Talks” on otherwise taboo topics.

One of those topics is intimate partner violence and prevention, Lewis said. “We talk about things that your grandmother, your aunt and mother didn’t talk about,” she said.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks