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Sparked by #MeToo campaign, sexual assault survivors rally and march in Hollywood

Sparked by #MeToo campaign, sexual assault survivors rally and march in Hollywood




Brittny Mejia
| Los Angeles Times (TNS)

November 12, 2017

Some wore T-shirts with the words “Me Too” emblazoned across the front, while others held up signs that said “No more sexual abuse” and “Rape is not a joke.”

On Sunday, several hundred survivors of sexual harassment and assault and their supporters gathered in front of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to draw attention to their cause. Recently, there has been an uprising of women who have gone public with their stories of abuse and systemic sexism.

“I’m really happy to come here, because really it’s Hollywood that opened this floodgate,” said Tarana Burke, who co-founded an organization called Just Be Inc. “It’s really symbolic to have this march happen, not with Hollywood stars, but in Hollywood.”

Last week, comedian Louis C.K. became the latest Hollywood figure to be felled by a sex scandal, following producer Harvey Weinstein, producer-director Brett Ratner, writer-director James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey. Also, Sacramento politicians and Washington lawmakers have been ensnared in their own scandals.

TV journalist Lauren Sivan, who has accused Weinstein of making unwanted sexual advances, wore a red shirt to Sunday’s demonstration that said “Take Back the Workplace.” She also stood up to speak to the assembled crowd.

“You are all brave,” she said. “Bravery comes in many different forms. You don’t have to wear a flak jacket to make America a better place to live and to work and you’re all doing it by being here today.”

Sivan then took her place at the head of the crowd as it began to march through Hollywood, chanting, “No more secrets, no more lies, no more silence that money buys!”

As the marchers passed tourists snapping photos along Hollywood Boulevard, their chants echoed along the street: “Survivors united, will never be divided,” and “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.”

Among the crowd were three friends, each with their own stories of survival. All of them work in the entertainment industry and live in Los Angeles.

“We think it’s really important to bring a voice and a face to the survivors that are literally all around us,” said Diana Varco, who held a sign that read “Rape is not a joke.” “We joke about it like it doesn’t happen and that just perpetuates the cycle.”

Beside her, Christy Lee Hughes, also a survivor, held a sign that read: “Stop victim blaming.”

“I feel like people are finally starting to listen,” Hughes said. “But I do have to emphasize this: This is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more, I’m telling you. There are so many more.”

Their friend, Jozanne Marie, an immigrant from Jamaica, said she dealt with abuse from within her family for a 10-year period. She wore a shirt that read: “The shame does not belong to you.”

“This is a bigger issue, it’s all over the world. I’m glad people are talking about it right now,” she said. “I’m hopeful this movement will help remove shame. … I believe things are going to change and this is going to set us up for the next generation.”

Burke said that Sunday’s #MeToo march was just the first step in a larger campaign to raise awareness about sexual misconduct in the workplace and elsewhere.

“I think it’s just the beginning,” she said. “This goes so far beyond Hollywood, this goes so far beyond the glitz and the glamour of what we’re seeing in the media, deep into the crevices of all parts of the world.”

Actress and activist Frances Fisher was among those who joined the demonstrators.

“There’s a tsunami of women and men coming forward for the first time in the history of the world and finally the mainstream media is paying attention,” Fisher said. “It’s an incredible moment in the history of something that has been endemic in society ever since the cavemen.

“We’re putting everyone on notice who are predators, that this will not stand — all the way up to the predator in chief,” she added. She was referring to President Donald Trump, who was caught bragging in vulgar language on a 2005 video, recorded for the “Access Hollywood” show, about grabbing and kissing women without their permission.

Trump has maintained his innocence during his presidency, as he did in the campaign.

Protesters marched to the CNN building on Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards. They rallied about 11:30 a.m. in front of the building with several demonstrators speaking to the crowd.

“We will no longer be intimidated, we will no longer be dismissed, we will no longer be silenced, we will no longer feel alone,” said Tess Rafferty, co-organizer of the Take Back the Workplace March that joined forces with #MeToo organizers for Sunday’s rally. “And if you try and silence or intimidate or discredit one of us, you’re going to have to deal with all of us. We are no longer the ones who have to fear for their jobs, you are.”

California Democratic State Sen. Connie Leyva also spoke to the crowd, saying she is going to introduce legislation to ban secret settlements in sexual harassment cases.

“It’s about time, right?” she said. “To all the women here, I want you to know that the California Legislature has your back.”

Sivan, a Weinstein accuser, then addressed the crowd again.

“This is 2017, the time is ripe for a reckoning, for a reordering of power,” she said. “Today we’re here to tell you that you will no longer keep us quiet, you will no longer label us gold-diggers or psychos. That ends now, because we want our daughters and sons to go to a workplace where they will never have to take a meeting with a dude in a bathrobe.”

The crowd later marched back toward Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, walking past Spacey’s star on the Walk of Fame. Some pointed out other notables.

“This is a perfect place to hold this rally,” one demonstrator said, gesturing toward Trump’s star.

Demonstrator and lead organizer Brenda Gutierrez said she was heartbroken when she first saw her social media feeds fill up with survivors of sexual assault sharing their stories alongside the hashtag #MeToo.

So she, along with other survivors of sexual assault, decided to take the social media movement, which was spurred by allegations of sexual assault by powerful men in Hollywood, to the streets with a survivors march.

“I guess as survivors we’re used to keeping it to ourselves, not knowing who to turn to,” Gutierrez said. “It makes me want to cry just seeing everyone here. Growing up, I thought I was alone. I’m looking at the audience and I realize I’m not alone.

“We will get through this together,” she said, “and we will make a change.”

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