High-profile sexual assault accusations trigger nationwide movement

Speak up: Sexual assault victims being heard more than ever

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Most cases of sexual assault usually go unreported, but nearly two months ago dozens of women came forward accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual assault incidents that happened years ago. Since then, at least 30 high profile men, including celebrities and politicians, have also been accused.

"30 years ago as a woman, that’s what you expected," said Monie Johnson, Executive Director of the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

It’s something no one wants to talk about, but sexual assault happens more often than we hear. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Networks reports that someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

"I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of women I know that have experienced trauma," said Hannah Bruner who is organizing a march of solidarity for victims of sexual assault called #MeToo, for this January in Little Rock.

Statistics show only 30 percent of sexual assaults ever get reported to the authorities. However, there is a cultural shift where more and more people are speaking up. Johnson cited the increase of celebrities sharing their stories as the inspiration for this shift.   

"You have people that are well known actually going ahead and taking a stand," said Johnson, “It’s the power of numbers, you know.”

Typically, she would hear from one victim every few months but now, in just one month, she’s heard from approximately 20 people wanting someone to talk to.

Both Johnson and Bruner say the fear of not being believed as the biggest hindrance to victims coming forward.

“It’s important to share your story because there are so many other women that don’t feel comfortable sharing because they don’t think anyone will take them seriously," said Bruner.

"We have to believe the people that are coming forward," said Johnson.

Johnson said the false report rate is between two to eight percent, meaning about 95 percent of claims are true.

“You’re going to have people coming at you from both angles saying, ‘I’m so proud of you for coming out and speaking about that,’ and then you’ll have the people who say, 'You’re lying,'" Bruner explained.

That fear has kept people quiet but, with more people becoming vocal, Johnson sees an avenue for change.

“It’s the power of numbers and the reduction of fear," said the Executive Director. “I think this could be the catalyst that pushes this over the edge where we can finally end sexual violence."

“They’re going to know they can’t get away with it anymore, and that’s the main thing," said Bruner.

Resources and more information about the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault can be found at acasa.us.

To learn about the Little Rock ‘Me Too” march, visit its’ Facebook event page.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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