Actress Alyssa Milano took Sunday to Twitter with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.
She urged women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write just two words on Twitter: “Me too.”
“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,” wrote the actress, who is known for her roles in “Who’s the Boss?,” “Melrose Place” and “Charmed,” and as a host on “Project Runway All Stars.”
Milano starred in “Charmed” alongside Rose McGowan, one of influential film producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. She also is friends with Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, and wrote in a blog she was sickened by the “disturbing” sexual abuse allegations against him.
Weinstein, who co-founded the Weinstein Company, was fired Oct. 8 after a New York Times investigation uncovered allegations the producer famous for shaping American film had engaged in rampant sexual harassment for years.
Weinstein’s accusers include actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who told the Times she was sexually harassed by Weinstein more than 20 years ago, and actress and director Angelina Jolie, who told the Times she “had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth and as a result chose never to work with him again.”
Weinstein, 65, has denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone.
But women listened to the Twitter suggestion. And within hours, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing.
By Monday morning more than 200,000 #metoo tweets were published, according to Twitter’s count. The stories came pouring forth on Facebook as well, with nearly 80,000 people reported to be “talking about this” even before daybreak Monday.
The messages were striking in their simplicity, and in the sheer number of them.
Those two words soon became a top trend nationwide on Twitter and yet another rallying cry for women — and men — who wrote they have experienced some type of sexual harassment or assault. Many shared personal stories.
There was the woman who said she was assaulted by a man who pretended to work at a YMCA, and the woman who said she was groped in an elevator by a superior who was nearly two decades older. “I never told anyone,” she said.
Another recounted how in the sixth grade, boys held her against a wall as they pulled up her shirt to “see if I stuffed my bra with Charmin or Bounty.”
“The boys barely got a slap on the wrist but I was socially ostracized because I ‘couldn’t take a joke,’” she wrote.
A number of men shared their stories as well, including one who said he was raped by two men in high school and has never gotten over it.
A number of celebrities joined in, including actresses Rosario Dawson, Debra Messing and Anna Paquin, saying they, too, had dealt with similar experiences.
The #MeToo Twitter campaign was at least the second of its kind since decades of sexual abuse allegations emerged against Weinstein. On Oct. 5, the day the Times’ expose revealed the claims against Weinstein, thousands took to Twitter to share their own encounters with sexual harassment in the workplace, using the hashtag #MyHarveyWeinstein.
Just over a year ago, a similar response, under the hashtag #NotOkay, followed a leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Donald Trump — who was now running for president — boasted about kissing and groping women.
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Some victims of sexual harassment and assault said the streams of tweets felt empowering. For others, the sheer volume was disturbing.
Will Goodman, a journalist in New York, wrote on Facebook that “I’m at a loss for words and literally crying as I see ‘Me, too’ stream on my NewsFeed.”
“I have always known that it is more widespread than acknowledged and to have these stark visual moments on social media is horrifying and heartbreaking,” he said in an interview.
Reuters contributed to this report.