WASHINGTON DC, USA – Actress Alyssa Milano has sparked a huge outpouring with a simple Twitter request that women respond "me too" if they have been sexually assaulted or harassed.
More than 27,000 people replied, making "#MeToo" the top trending topic through the day Sunday, October 15.
The avalanche of painful personal stories comes amid a series of high-profile sex abuse scandals – the latest centered around powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The intensity and breadth of the response underscored how the problem extends well beyond the rich and famous, affecting the everyday lives of women around the world.
"If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet," Milano wrote.
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
In France, a similar campaign with the top-trending hashtag #balancetonporc ("Expose the pig") saw women share their experiences of being sexually harassed at work or in the street.
It was started by Sandra Muller, a journalist who began the hashtag by recounting how her former boss had called her "my type of woman" and then commented on her breasts.
Many women in the US and France appeared to be speaking out for the first time about abuses they had suffered, often saying they had to overcome feelings of shame and embarrassment to do so.
Some women using the #metoo hashtag said they had been abused as children by relatives, or as a teenager by a person they trusted. That nobody believed them when they spoke about it emerged as a common refrain.
"I wish I could remember who I was before #MeToo," a woman named Rosey wrote.
"Molested by a family member. Raped as a kid and an adult. Became a drug addict and then overcame. Don't ever give up. I'm here#MeToo," Amy Christensen said in her post.
"Sexual assaulted by a military doctor at Lackland AFB. 1973," said DebiDay, referring to a US Air Force base in Texas.
"Me, too. I spoke out. What did I learn. That no one, absolutely no one, would listen, much less help," said Lisa Omlid.
"If you are not at the point where you can share your #MeToo I stand with you," Kelly Douglas wrote. "Your story is valid whether you share it or not."
There were many sympathetic responses from men.
Vinay Ramesh encouraged "all my fellow men to learn about #MeToo. The responsibility to stop sexual violence is absolutely on us."
"I feel disgusted and sad," Ed Krassenstein wrote.
Although the overwhelming majority of the posts were personal in nature, the Weinstein scandal and US President Donald Trump's videotaped boasts of groping women with impunity also drew comments.
"Just as I did after the #Trump tapes, I'm having flashbacks due to the Harvey Weinstein assault & rape allegations. Abuse is forever," BuffieHippie wrote.
More than 20 women – a who's who of Hollywood – have come forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, assault and sexual harassment.
Milano, probably best known for her role in the 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss," is not among the accusers.
Weinstein, who insists any sexual encounters were consensual, was expelled this week from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A court document made public on Sunday revealed that Trump's campaign has been subpoenaed for all documents related to assault allegations that emerged during his run for the presidency.
The subpoena is part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's reality TV show "The Apprentice" who alleged he tried to kiss and grope her without her consent. – Rappler.com