Photo by Mart

Over the last few days, women and men have flooded social media with the #MeToo hashtag, telling stories of their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. After news of Harry Weinstein’s sexual harassment allegations dominated the media, Alyssa Milano put out a call on twitter for people to share “Me Too” on their social networks to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem’.

Currently, thousands of women and men have shared their painful stories of unwanted advances on every social network. The numbers have been astounding, and there is a lot to be learned from this incredible display of courage.

01 | Every story challenges us to reexamine our preconceived notions about sexual assault and harassment. It shows us that the reality is that men and women are both victims. It forces us to lay down our stereotypes of who we believe a victim to be and realize that victims are all around us, in every area of our lives. It challenges the longstanding beliefs rooted in phrases like “she asked for it” and “why didn’t she say no?” Every story is proof that it has nothing to do with your sexual history, what you wore, or why you were there. We can no longer knowingly or unknowingly maintain damaging perspectives that victims fit into a certain box, and everyone else should have “been more careful.”

02 | This hashtag has given us an all-encompassing definition of sexual harassment. Every story is a unique experience that breaks the mold of what many people have always believed sexual harassment to look like. It has given many skeptics and doubters true insight into the unwanted experiences women and men have had to endure. The stories have shown how many situations we wrongly exclude from the conversation based on our own stereotypes and assumptions around sexual assault and harassment.

03 | With a broadened definition, the hashtag has helped many people understand that they too have been victims. It has shined a glaring light on what sexual harassment and assault look like in real time, with real emotions, with real women and men. Many brave people have shared their most intimate and harrowing details of their experiences, and with that, more women are realizing that they can truly relate. More and more women are now able to put words and labels to their own experiences and know that they are not alone.

04 | Hopefully, past and potential future offenders are reading these stories and immediately seeing where they made the wrong decision or where their stance on this issue was wrong. While many are still in denial about the ramifications of their actions, many others are taking a hard look at their beliefs. This is the real solution. Offenders and pre-offenders are the ones who must change. With thousands of women coming forward with gruesome, heartbreaking details, offenders are faced with the reality of their choices and the longstanding impacts of their actions. They can begin to grasp the infinitely complicated emotions surrounding saying “no” and how their “jokes” really made their victims feel.

These few points are just a few of the ways that this hashtag is one of the most eye-opening displays of heartbreaking truth we have seen on social media. Our hearts are broken over these stories. But we are so grateful for the bravery of these men and women. If you haven’t checked it out yet, consider reading the stories on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And remember to respond with love, grace, and compassion for those men and women brave enough to share their stories. If you are saying “Me Too,” we at Conscious Magazine grieve with you. Please visit RAINN.Org for more information.

At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that empower us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.