In 2006, activist Tarana Burke founded Just Be Inc., a nonprofit that offers services to victims of sexual harassment and abuse. She called the movement she created “Me Too.” The name was birthed in 1997 after Burke listened to the sexual abuse victim story of a 13-year-old girl. “I didn’t have a response or a way to help her in that moment, and I couldn’t even say ‘me too,’’ Burke told The New York Times.
Over a year ago, the New Yorker and The Times shared stories about now-disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein and his decades of alleged sexual misconduct. The pieces gained much traction and the #MeToo movement ballooned on social media after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the phrase.
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Women and men shared their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. It forced a conversation about the misuse of power and its intersection with sexual abuse.
In the nearly two years since the Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement has sparked changes in almost every industry. Powerful men including CEOS, political candidates and public figures were expelled from their positions because of growing numbers of allegations.
In 2017, TIME magazine named the “silence breakers” of the movement as the coveted Person of the Year. As the movement continues to shape power dynamics and address once-normalized mistreatment of women (and men), EBONY.com looks back on powerful moments #MeToo had during the past 12 months.
After a slew of sexual misconduct scandals in 2017, some women in Hollywood took action. On Jan. 1, 2018, 300 prominent women in the film, theater and TV industry signed a full-page letter in The New York Times and the Spanish language newspaper La Opinion to exhibit solidarity for working-class women who experienced sexual assault.
According to the initiative’s website, the Time’s Up movement is a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.”
Through the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, money is raised to help support less-privileged victims of sexual assault and harassment cases with their legal fees
Despite more than 20 years of sex assault allegations against R. Kelly, his career had remained mostly unaffected until this year. The singer had tour dates in Chicago and New York City canceled as a result of a July 2017 article that accused Kelly of running a “sex cult.”
On April 30, the Women of Color committee of the Time’s Up organization announced that it would be joining the #MuteRKelly campaign, which was created by Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye last year in response to the continued sexual assault allegations against the singer. These accusations seem have had little to no effect on R. Kelly’s career. As with the current onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations against prominent men in the entertainment industry, the campaign calls for RCA Records and other companies to stop working with the 51-year-old artist.
“Today we join an existing online campaign called #MuteRKelly,” states the letter from the committee posted exclusively on The Root. “Over the past 25 years, the man known publicly as R. Kelly has sold 60 million albums, toured the globe repeatedly and accumulated hundreds of millions of plays on radio and streaming services.” The campaign would like to see Apple Music, Spotify and Ticketmaster stop promoting Kelly’s music and concerts.
The campaign also called for an investigation of Kelly. Spotify removed the singer’s music from its promoted playlists in May, but it was ultimately returned after backlash about censorship.
Surviving R. Kelly, a six-hour docuseries exploring the abuse claims made against the R&B singer, will air on Lifetime in three parts on Jan. 3-5 at 9 p.m. ET.
Terry Crews Testifies Survivor’s Bill of Rights
Terry Crews delivered a powerful testimony on June 26 at Capitol Hill condemning “toxic masculinity” and its effects on sexual assault. The actor explained the “critical” need for the proposed Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which was drafted by sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen, and establishes consistent rules and procedures for prosecuting sexual assault crimes.
“I am an actor, author, former athlete, advocate and a survivor of a sexual assault,” Crews said in his opening statement. He talked about his accusing Adam Venit, a talent agent with William Morris Endeavor (WME), of groping him at a party in 2016.
Crews’ testimony and continued work on being a voice has helped other men get over the stigma that only weak or gay men can be victims of sexual assault.
141 Sexual Abuse Survivors Accept Courage Award at ESPYS
Six-time Olympic winning gymnast Aly Raisman and dozens of other survivors of disgraced USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on July 18 at the 2018 ESPYS. In a powerful display of solidarity, the women who call themselves “sister survivors” presented the message, “We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”
The award is given annually to athletes who embody the spirit and tenacity of late tennis legend and human rights activist Arthur Ashe.
Nassar is serving 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls under the guise of performing medical treatment over the past 20 years.
Bill Cosby Sentencing
In September, Bill Cosby, 81, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 at his Pennsylvania home. His is the first celebrity conviction of the #MeToo movement.
Like with many other celebrities accused of sexual misconduct and assault, rumors and speculation about Cosby’s behavior circulated for years. In 2014, comedian Hannibal Burress made a joke about the Ghost Dad star’s alleged actions, which caused the public to reevaluate the fallen comic’s mistreatment of women.
Although many of the allegations brought against Cosby date to before the Me Too movement, the current climate of the changing industry allowed his accusers the space to call him out.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.