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#MeToo becomes an anthem for survivors of sexual assault

Anyone with a social media account may have noticed Sunday that droves of sexual assault survivors began updating their statuses to #metoo in light of allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein, an American filmmaker and former studio executive, was deposed in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that have only grown in number since it was first reported by the New York Times Oct. 5.

Actress Alyssa Milano responded by taking it a step further, asking survivors of sexual assault and harassment to tweet “#metoo” in an effort to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The tweet has 22,000 retweets, 47,000 likes, and 63,000 replies since it was first sent on Sunday afternoon and the numbers continue to climb.

The tag, meanwhile, has expanded to other social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram. The issue is further complicated with discussions of systematic misogyny.

“I support [survivors using the #metoo tag]. It’s very brave of them to say they have experienced that,” said Eilleen Salas, a Cal State Long Beach graduate student majoring in biology. “It’s sad that [Weinstein] had so much power over all of these women, and that there are so many women starting to come out about it.”

The outcry began a dialogue about the abuse of power by both executives and “A-listers” in Hollywood, particularly in the case of individuals such as Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski. Woody Allen, who has also been investigated for the sexual abuse of his daughter Dylan Farrow in 1993, advised people to not leap to judgment at the risk of starting a “witchhunt.”

In the short days that have passed since reports came out, Weinstein was dropped from The Weinstein Company, which is now being renamed, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Weinstein is now separating from his wife, Georgina Chapman, who is seeking a divorce in the wake of the allegations. Weinstein appears to be the first in a long history of Hollywood cover-ups that has fallen from his proverbial throne, but he is not the first Hollywood “big name” to be accused of misconduct.

Women also came to the defense of Weinstein albeit indirectly. Miyam Bialik, the actress who played the titular character of NBC’s “Blossom,” wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which argues that “[women] wouldn’t get assaulted if [they] weren’t so pretty.” Fashion designer Donna Karan shared similar sentiments. Both women came under fire for their comments and have since then apologized for their statements.

“I wouldn’t say that [sexual assault] is normal, but it happens too often,” said Kirya Valle, psychology major. “I get honked at sometimes and I would definitely say that harassment is more normal [for women to experience].”

The outpouring of stories, however, is unsurprising when one in every six women and one in every 33 men are the survivors of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN also reports that the majority of survivors are under the age of 30 with 54 percent of them found between the ages of 18 – 34.

Sexual violence is not an uncommon topic of discussion, especially for former Vice President Joe Biden who has spoken out against current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ plans to revise to Title IX protections for students.

CSULB has seen higher numbers of reports of sexual assault in recent years and the campus’ sexual harassment policy has come under fire by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for its vagueness. Some students believe that the tag will highlight and bring attention to the issue as Milano intended.

Brooke Bolt, physics major, argues that women and survivors are usually the focus of the discussion on sexual assault but always fail to address the issues of the normalization of patriarchy and toxic masculinity.

“Violence has a gender, and it’s men,” said Bolt. “Men are also sexually assaulted and almost 99 percent of the time it’s by other men…Men should be held accountable.”

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