It all started with a tweet late Sunday night. Within 20 minutes, it had gotten 10,000 replies. As of Tuesday, it has 61,000 — and counting.
With her #MeToo campaign, actor Alyssa Milano launched a movement, encouraging survivors of sexual assault and abuse to come forward. “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,” she tweeted.
“It’s definitely overwhelming, but I feel like the time was right for this to happen and the fact that I could be a vessel to create change is really special,” Milano tells Variety.
Milano says she wasn’t surprised by the outpouring. “There are so many people that have faced this kind of harassment or abuse in their lifetime that the numbers are not really surprising to me at all, sadly,” she says. “What is surprising is how people are surprised by the numbers. It’s a testament to the fact that people have been shamed into feeling that this is a discussion that they can’t have. Or that they shouldn’t have. Or that they’re blamed or shamed for.”
Her goal, she says, was to get the numbers to a point where people couldn’t ignore it anymore. “I wanted to take the focus off the predator and put it back on the victim,” she says. “We’ve been hearing a lot about those who caused this kind of hurt and heartache and not enough about the victims who have to overcome and heal. I feel like to be able to do that, you have to know you’re part of a community that can support and stand beside you. This is a community that is very large.”
But she hopes this isn’t just a “hashtag movement,” she says. “I hope this is a shift in the way we look at each other and our coworkers. This is not just a Hollywood issue. This happens every day. This happens everywhere. I’m hoping that by putting this focus on giving the power back to the victims, more women can move forward and won’t be shamed or blamed. Predators will realize they won’t be able to get away with it anymore.”
And yes, she has her own #MeToo story — “too many to count,” she says. She’s not open to revealing details, but says she will when the time is right. “I think just to stand in solidarity and say ‘me too’ is what I can give right now,” she says.
She points her finger to the White House as a reason sexual harassment is so pervasive. “I do think there is an element we have allowed in this society and culture of ‘locker room talk’ that seems to be acceptable somehow,” she says. “We have to shift that dynamic of it being so permissible, so allowed into normalizing it on the victims’ behalf.”
“The fact that he is the president and stripping women of their rights are really giving women a feeling of urgency that they need to change things,” she says. “I’ve always said since the day he was inaugurated that women will be the ones who take down this presidency. This movement is just one step, one piece of this puzzle.”
Milano says she’s working with the Creative Coalition on next steps to ensure that the conversation continues — focused on empowering people to feel like they can come forward. “It doesn’t matter if you have 5 million people following you on Twitter or six people at your dinner table,” she says. “It’s your job as a productive member of society to educate and empower. I think that’s the only way to change the conversation.”