Stories of sexual assault inspire Mizzou to reach out

Stories of sexual assault inspire Mizzou to reach out

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Since Sunday, social media has been flooded with people sharing their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment, using the Twitter hashtag #MeToo.

The movement, begun by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of sexual allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, is making an impact locally.

"I think the #MeToo thing does a really good job of illustrating that most people you know have experienced some kind of sexual harassment or violence, or assault," said MU student Bri.

Some Mizzou students, like Dharea Jackson, talked about the power of social media.

"Right now, for the millennials, that's all we go to and we're on social media all day every day," she said. "When we're on there and we see those things, we start to understand and figure out ways to change those things."

For Merrill, it's about solidarity and even though social media isn't as personal, she said it's a way to get the conversation started.

"It sparks conversation between a group of girlfriends or even guys and girlfriends to talk about the issue and make it more personal," she said.

ABC17 News dug into the UCR number for rape and found the number of reported rapes had increased over the past 10 years.

Officials said it's not necessarily an increase in cases, but an increase in people speaking out. Jennifer Carter Dochler, the public policy director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, has worked for the coalition for 15 years. She said this was the most attention she's seen dedicated to ending sexual assault and harassment in that time.

"There's more that can be done, but the amount of attention and dedicated resources given to address the problem has really been a huge success," she said. 

The University of Missouri tweeted Monday to let students know about the resources available at the Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention Center.

The RSVP Center retweeted Mizzou, and made clear that they were there for everyone, even those who didn't feel comfortable coming forward about their experiences for any reason.

"Whether they choose to speak loudly or experience their journey quietly, we're thinking about them, we're here for them and we support them," said Danica Wolf, the coordinator of the RSVP Center.

Here is a link to the RSVP Center website. ABC17 News has reached out to Columbia College and Stephen's College to find out what resources are available on their campuses.

Columbia College's Title IX coordinator encourages students to use the resources available on its annual Security and Fire Safety Report located here.

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