After 'Me Too', 'scary' personal conversations about sexual assault

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Women come forward with 'Me Too'
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Women come forward with 'Me Too'
Samantha Hanahentzen, 17, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson??Hanahentzen said: "When I saw the #MeToo hashtag I was just coming to terms with my sexual assault. It happened when I was in middle school by one of my teachers. It took me a while to come forward with what had happened to me and then when I went to the administration I was told I didn't have enough evidence to prove anything and I should just keep quiet about it because I and the school could be sued for slander if I went public with my experience. It was really silencing because when I was being assaulted it was that stereotypical line of "let's keep this between me and you." And then when I found the courage to come out with out I was told again "let's keep this quiet." So for me too, it was a way to have a voice and it was a way for me to see that I'm not the only one that has gone through this and that women all around the world have all experienced the same thing. It was really unifying." TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY?
Jill Marklin, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Marklin said: "I am a part of the #MeToo movement like every other woman that I know, whether they recognize it or not. I starting recognizing years ago that this is something I experience on an everyday basis, sometimes in very unconscious ways and there have been times in my life when it has been very conscious. I'm now able to talk about experiences that I didn't realize were happening at the time and I want to be vocal about it because I feel that when you bring those dark things out into the light they don't have any power anymore and that it will allow other people to bring that out too and to begin healing and to begin fighting back against those experiences. I was really lucky, if you want to call it lucky, that I never experienced rape, never experienced anything that violent. But it's everyday fear, walking in the streets, being called at, not wanting to be called at. I've had different guys, just being out, trying to force me to dance with them, to touch them. I've had men call me a bitch or I had one man stomp on my foot in LA when I said I didn't want to be around him, those are violent. Things that men never really have to think about but we, as women, are taught. When I was very young, my mom started telling me: "Be alert wherever you are. Make sure you carry your keys between your fingers?" As women, it's second nature now but it shouldn't have to be.\
Laura Chapman, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Chapman said: "I have been assaulted by men from a very young age and my #MeToo story is almost my entire life up until about 30 and then I started aging out of it. I feel like if we all talk about it, that's how we can end it. The voice gives us power.\
Jenna Kreider, 24, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Kreider said: "I was sexually assaulted twice in college; once by a boyfriend, once by a friend and it wasn't something that I really talked about. I will talk about it if it's something people ask about but I'm generally not open with it. This #MeToo campaign really helped me to vocalize that with other people who I know have also gone through the same experience which is really great.\
Nancy Stalnaker, 35, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Stalnaker said: "I think it is fantastic that women are deciding that the people who deserve the shame are not the victims of sexual assault but the perpetrators of sexual assault. The #MeToo campaign has really helped people to feel that they are not alone.\
Brenda Siegel, 40, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Siegel said: "I've had several #MeToo experiences in my life but one was particularly difficult and aggressive in my relationship with my son's father. I never really spoke out about it until two weeks ago and I'm really grateful to have the opportunity to not be holding that inside my body anymore.\
Kadi McDonald, 30, wears a Rose McGowan "Rose's Army" scarf as she poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson McDonald said: "I have been blessed with the courage to talk about my experiences and be able to talk about them and this campaign was really awesome to help others do that. The recognition from family and friends that it's happening to people that they love; it's happening to everyone. I'm the most basic person you'll ever meet and so to have something so atrocious occur is very surprising for people.\
Siyobin Blanco, 23, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Blanco said: "I was sexually abused as a child and all the way growing up and it took me a really long time to recognize that so when I saw this campaign I thought that it was really important that other people know that that's something that exists, with children as well, so people can learn to recognize the signs and recognize it at a young age.\
Heather Latzko, 22, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Latzko said: "I want to remind everyone that rape is not the only form of sexual assault and just because you're dating them or you're married to them does not mean that it is not sexual assault.\
Pam Akerstrom, 63, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Akerstrom said: "I spent 20 years not telling anyone about it and I'm glad that there's an opportunity for people to speak today.\
Ashleigh Strange, 29, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Strange said: "When I first saw the hashtags I didn't think that it applied to me because I realize now that it's easy to ignore when it's happening to others and it's almost easier to ignore when it's happening to you because it's just something that you don't think that you're big enough, you don't think you're strong enough. It's weird to say that having a hashtag behind you gives you strength but it does; it's weird but it does.\
Jennifer Childs, 39, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Childs said: "When I was 30, I was sexually harassed by a boss. He was feeling me up in the car without my consent and it was one of those moments where I chose to speak up and it was really hard. I remember going to my female boss at the company and telling her about it and the only thing that they managed to do is that they took me off his team and then she proceeded to tell me that I was stupid for putting myself in that situation. Three years later he harassed somebody else and because there was a file they fired him.\
April Slusser, 24, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Slusser said: "My #MeToo experience prompted me to get involved in local organizations to help disenfranchised women who have been sexually assaulted or victims of human trafficking or domestic violence.\
Maya Helferty, 25, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Helferty said: "I've always been aware that most women, if not all, and tons of other people experience sexual harassment and assault. I've always been really open that I've had those experiences throughout my life. But I didn't realize how many other people didn't realize and were not aware that there was such a large community of us.\
Theresa Joy, 39, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. October 29, 2017. Picture taken October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson? ?Joy said: "Women have been taught that sexual harassment or anything sexual or abusive towards them is just a part of being a woman, it's just something that we live with, that we accept that we have to push through or push down and go on with as a part of life. The #MeToo movement is just another part of the women's movement that we're finally coming together and saying let's lift each other up instead of pushing each other down? I think it's changing the entire future for women that the younger generation are seeing this and saying "Wait. That guy shouldn't be talking to me like that. I'm not going to let that happen to me in the club. He shouldn't be touching me in this way?". My daughter is 19 and I'm proud of what's happening with the #MeToo movement because I feel that it's going to make her safer and stronger. Just to have that on a huge scale right now, that it's not okay to be harassed and raped and abused."?
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(Reuters) - After reading a painful series of "Me Too" stories about sexual harassment and assault on social media, Amanda Crone realized she needed to have a conversation with her husband.

So an anxious Crone, 29, a stay-at-home mother of two young children, put on a movie for her kids and went upstairs to the bedroom of her Hanover, Pennsylvania, home to tell him about being sexually assaulted nine years ago, before they had met.

"It was scary and brought everything back," Crone said with a sigh. She had worried about his reaction, in part because he knew one of the men who had assaulted her a decade earlier. "But it just felt like it was time."

Three weeks after allegations of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's predatory sexual behavior moved millions of women around the world to use the hashtag #MeToo to share their own stories of abuse on social media, more than 20 women contacted by Reuters say they are still grappling with the fallout.

While the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse fueled a raging public debate, the "Me Too" movement also sparked a series of difficult and revelatory private conversations for some women with their spouses, partners and family members.

Charlotte Kirk, 23, felt compelled to tell her mother about a recent incident when a close friend's boyfriend groped her without consent. She was surprised by the reaction.

"Her response was basically, 'Believe it or not, this doesn’t get better even after you're married and have three kids.' She had been in the exact same position before, too," said Kirk, a medical research assistant in Boston.

Reilly Downes, 28, had a talk with her father after he saw her "Me Too" post about being assaulted and harassed.

"I didn’t go straight into detail about my story - just kind of made it evident that I have experienced that as a woman," said Downes, a dance teacher in Amarillo, Texas. "Of course dads want to protect you like nobody's business, so his response was a little bit more aggressive, angry."

Her father, Kevin Downes, said "no dad ever wants to hear these things."

Weinstein, accused by a number of women of sexual harassment and assault in incidents dating back to the 1980s, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

For some women, the outrage over the Weinstein allegations was heightened by the election of President Donald Trump, who bragged on a decade-old "Access Hollywood" outtake that surfaced during last year's campaign about kissing and touching women because "when you are a star, they let you do it."

The Trump tape followed a string of harassment and assault cases involving well-known and powerful men, including comedian Bill Cosby, who denied sexual assault allegations by dozens of women.

 

'WAKE-UP CALL'

Trump's subsequent victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, was a "wake-up call" for many women, said Karin Roland of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet.

To remind people of the "Access Hollywood" tape, UltraViolet parked a large screen on the Mall near the Washington Monument recently to play the tape repeatedly for 12 hours on the one-year anniversary of its release.

Trump apologized last year for his "Access Hollywood" comments, which he called "locker room talk." He told reporters two weeks ago that allegations of sexual assault and misconduct leveled at him before the election by several women were "made-up stuff."

Activist Tarana Burke first created the "Me Too" campaign a decade ago to reach sexual assault victims in underprivileged communities. But it became a rallying cry after the Weinstein allegations, when actress Alyssa Milano urged women who had been victims of sexual assault and harassment to use it as a way to convey the scale of the problem.

In a Reuters/Ipsos online poll of 1,832 people taken Oct. 20-24, more than half of all adults said they had experienced an unwanted verbal or physical sexual advance. Of those, 11 percent said they had posted a "Me Too" status and 14 percent had reposted or engaged in a "Me Too" conversation without sharing a personal experience. Forty-four percent said they had seen the campaign but not participated.

 

(For the graphic, 'Two in every three women have dealt with unwanted sexual encounter', click http://tmsnrt.rs/2gPHRr0)

 

Leona Waller, 25, a freelance writer in Berkeley, California, said she sat up in bed to prepare her "Me Too" post as her boyfriend slept next to her. She had never directly told him about a sexual assault in college "when no didn’t mean no" to her attacker.

"I actually handed him my phone and showed him the full post that I had written," she said. "He just hugged me. It was a moment."

But sometimes those conversations are just too painful to have. A father from Alabama contacted through social media, who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he learned his 22-year-old daughter had been raped after the "Me Too" movement inspired her to tell his wife about it.

He said he is unsure what to say to her about it. "I know of nothing that I could say that would be comforting, other than, 'I love you, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. This is not your fault'," he said.

 

(Editing by Jason Szep and Mary Milliken)

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