In an old warehouse-turned-office in northwestern Miami, a powerful but painful conversation by a group of women began.
Sitting on metal folding chairs around an improvised altar covered with a yellow sheet and a lit candle at its center, 16 women shared their intimate stories of sexual harassment and abuse.
They were not wealthy or famous celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift or Salma Hayek. Their accused abusers were not powerful men like Harvey Weinstein. Those present at this gathering were everyday Miami women, minorities and immigrants. They clean hotels and homes. They serve as nannies and waitresses. They help care for the sick and the elderly.
What brought them together was the national debate sparked by the #MeToo campaign. The millions of testimonies about sexual harassment and abuse that flooded social and mainstream media have made them recall their own traumatic experiences, an issue that Golden Globe honoree Oprah Winfrey brought to the forefront again during a speech earlier this week.
At the Miami Women’s Circle, the next two hours were spent talking about abusive events: There was the story about the naked hotel guest who tried to pull a maid into his bed and then followed her into the hallway as she ran away. And the housekeeper who complained that a 14-year-old groped her butt only to be told by the mother that he was simply “reaching puberty.”
“How many folks in this circle have been sexually harassed?” Jasmen Rogers, moderator of the Women’s Circle, asked during a recent Tuesday meeting.
Fourteen of the 16 women raised their hands.
“How many folks in this circle have been sexually assaulted? Answer only if you feel comfortable sharing that information,” Rogers continued.
This time, 10 women raised their hands.
“How many folks in this circle have felt safe to report it immediately?”
Only one person raised her hand.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.