On Thursday, the New York Times released a story detailing sexual harassment and abuse allegations against major Hollywood producer and executive Harvey Weinstein. Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan are two of the Hollywood women reported to have been harassed by Weinstein over a course of decades, among others. (Weinstein has since refuted the allegations and has threatened legal action against the New York Times for what he describes as the paper’s “faulty report.”)
The news quickly prompted many responses on Twitter, from Hollywood and beyond, but one woman’s tweet in particular struck a nerve with hundreds of other sexual harassment victims.
Cambridge, Ontario-based writer Anne T. Donahue (who, disclosure, has written for Brit + Co) tweeted asking her followers what their first “Harvey Weinstein” experience was — meaning when they were first harassed by a man in the workplace. She shared her story first.
“I was a 17-yr-old co-op student and he insisted on massaging my shoulders as I typed,” she wrote.
Within minutes, Donahue’s mentions were flooded with responses from women sharing their stories. While many did involve the workplace, the harrowing stories extended to high school (and even middle school) teachers, family members, peers, and many, many more.
Donahue was shocked by the volume of replies, even if, she says, she wasn’t surprised so many women had those experiences. It was what she calls the generosity in people being willing to publicly share their personal stories that floored her.
“Sharing is a big deal, and it creates space in which anyone who’s endured harassment or assault or abuse can feel a little less alone, and that’s important,” she tells us. “[But] sharing isn’t the way everyone copes, and sometimes just seeing that it wasn’t just you, that you didn’t ask for it, that it wasn’t your fault — that can be very powerful.”
Donahue dutifully dug into her timeline, engaging with respondents and amplifying many of their stories with retweets. It recalls a similar tweet by writer Kelly Oxford who, after President Trump’s “grab her by the p***y” comment in October 2016, shared her sexual assault experiences with the hashtag #notokay. Women shared their experiences by the thousands then too. Donahue says there is power in these numbers.
“It’s all well and good for me to share my story, but that’s one story,” she says. “But to see so many? To prove that this is a norm we’re stuck living with? To drive home the point that you aren’t alone if you’ve been on the receiving end of harassment or assault or abuse? To show predators that we’re banding together? That’s massive.”
Donahue says that she hopes the tweets help anyone who carries a burden of guilt, something far too common among sexual abuse victims.
“It’s so tough to un-learn, but I hope this is a step,” she says. “It wasn’t you. You’re not alone, it wasn’t your fault.”
Have you ever experienced workplace sexual harassment? Let us know @BritandCo.