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Thousands of survivors came forward on social media Friday with their own accounts of why they didn't report being sexually assaulted, creating a show of defiance against President Donald Trump and anyone else who questions an accuser's honesty.
Actor-activist Alyssa Milano — who helped popularize the Twitter hashtag #metoo last year — sparked the new hashtag #WhyIDidntReport to become the top trend on Twitter Friday afternoon. Milano shared her personal story of being sexually assaulted and encouraged others to do the same after the president questioned Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“Hey, @realDonaldTrump, Listen the f--- up. I was sexually assaulted twice. Once when I was a teenager. I never filed a police report and it took me 30 years to tell my parents," Milano tweeted.
"If any survivor of sexual assault would like to add to this please do so in the replies. #MeToo,” Milano wrote, adding the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport in a reply.
The call to arms inspired a deluge of other survivors to contribute their own emotionally devastating accounts of why they didn't go to the authorities in the immediate aftermath of their assaults.
Fellow actresses Ashley Judd and Daryl Hannah contributed their own stories:
Earlier in the day, Trump had tried to cast doubt on Ford, who has accused Kavanaughof holding her down and groping her at party during their high school days. Trump suggested that if those accusations were true, Ford would have filed a police report at the time.
"It’s blaming the victim and the family of victim," Amy Oppenheimer, a Berkeley, Calif.-based attorney who specializes in investigating sexual misconduct claims, told NBC News.
Oppenheimer added that when the alleged assault took place more than three decades ago, it was even more of a taboo subject than it is in 2018.
"Many people were brought up that this is a humiliating experience that you shouldn’t share with anyone," said Oppenheimer. "It certainly wasn't talked about the way it is now."
Thousands of social-media posters also rejected Trump's argument, some of them publicly revealing their private pain for the first time. While their reasons for not reporting were varied — fear of public shame, mistrust of authorities, a history of being victimized by members of their own family or a close friend — all were shared in solidarity with Ford.
Author Patti Davis, the daughter of former president Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, has also come to the defense of Ford by revealing in a searing Washington Post op-ed that she herself was raped by a prominent record executive 40 years ago.
The attack happened in his office, where Davis had arrived for an evening meeting in hopes of taking a step towards a professional songwriting career. Instead, she left violated and ashamed after being attacked by the cocaine-snorting exec.
"I never told anyone for decades — not a friend, not a boyfriend, not a therapist, not my husband when I got married years later," wrote Davis. "Ford wants the FBI to investigate so that some of the details she doesn’t remember can be established. It’s a brave request," Davis added. "Perhaps the aging men who are poised to interrogate her, unless they hide behind surrogates, should pause for a moment and think about the courage it takes for a woman to say: Here is my memory. It has haunted me for decades. It changed my life. You need to know about it now because of what is at stake for this country."
As for Kavanaugh, he has denied Ford's accusations.
The Supreme Court nominee is set to respond during a hearing that may take place next week. Ford is still looking for assurances from the Senate Judiciary Committee that "terms that are fair and ensure her safety," before committing to appear.
Oppenheimer, however, was heartened that the intense reaction to the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag is a sign that Ford will be treated better than the misogynistic grilling Anita Hill was subjected to when she came forward to accuse Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual misconduct at his 1991 confirmation hearings.
"It’s another #MeToo moment," said Oppenheimer. "We’re not going to sit around and watch this happen again."