Dr. Christina DeJong, MSU associate professor in the school of criminal justice explained part of the reasons the #MeToo postings on social media went viral this week. She talked with WKAR's Brooke Allen during "Morning Edition" on October 18.
"I'm aware as a researcher that sexual harassment and sexual assault is pretty common in our culture, particularly among women also among men," said Dr. DeJong.
"Occasionally when there is a big news story like this that tends to open the floodgates... people start to feel safe about opening up with regard to their victimization. And sharing... can be very confidence building."
Thousands of women are identifying themselves as victims of sexual harassment or assault following a call to action propelled by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's downfall over of allegations of sexual misconduct spanning decades.
Milano passed along a suggestion from a friend on Sunday that women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted post "me too" to "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
The campaign quickly trended on Twitter and Facebook, with notable names like Lady Gaga, Monica Lewinsky and Rosario Dawson identifying themselves as victims. Others shared personal stories.
DeJong said its important to distinguish between sexual harassment and sexual assault.
"Sexual harassment is something that typically happens in the workplace," said Dr. DeJong. "A supervisor preying on someone whom they supervise. Or it can be just creating a hostile work environment, a hostile climate that can happen between any two people. Those behaviors aren't criminal. They are illegal according to the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], that no one has to endure that kind of behavior at work whether male or female."
"Sexual assault is a crime. That involves things like anywhere from inappropriate touching up through forcible rape."
Dr. DeJong said many people are sharing their stories because they were too ashamed right after they were victimized.
"It allows many more victims who perhaps didn't tell anyone what happened to them, it allows them to share now."