For Larkin Wynn, a senior pursuing international relations at USC, it was just another evening walking home with a friend from a tailgate. She remembers how she and her friend felt so confident wearing their "nasty woman" tank tops.

USC student Larkin Wynn shares the “Me Too” post she shared on Facebook. (Photo by Claudia Buccio)
USC student Larkin Wynn shares the “Me Too” post she shared on Facebook. (Photo by Claudia Buccio)

"It hadn't really gotten dark, and there were plenty of people around me too," she adds. Wynn got distracted with her phone. Suddenly, a "guy on a bike rides behind me, slaps my ass so hard that he leaves a bruise on me," she says.

Just like Wynn, the conversation on sexual assault and harassment hit close to home for several USC students. Many of them posted on social media "Me Too." The two words that have empowered thousands of victims, who are often too frightened to speak up on this issue.

"I was ready to ride it off as this is something that happens, but then, I realized, wait a second, no, I literally have a bruise on my body," Wynn says about the incident that occurred last year near campus. "He physically assaulted me, so I needed to report this."

In data drawn from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “the majority (51%) of student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was away from home pursuing leisure activities or traveling from place to place.”

Wynn says she felt compelled to share her story "because what some people don't realize that sexual assault comes in many forms. It doesn't have to be categorized as severely as rape to be something that is disrespectful."

The "Me too" campaign started after actress and producer Alyssa Milano sent out a tweet on Sunday night inviting women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed to come forward.

This comes after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of decades of sexual abuse towards women while working in the entertainment industry.

Over 720,000 users joined the conversation predominantly on Twitter as shown in an analytical report built by USC Professor Matthew Le Veque, a social media expert at USC Annenberg, and his team. The data includes posts from Facebook and Instagram. The former was harder to quantify due to user's' privacy settings.

Brit Wigintton is another USC voice who seconded the "Me too" pledge. The 24-year-old graduate student pursuing a journalism master's in specialized arts was sexually assaulted earlier this year by a man she had gone on a couple dates with.

On New Year's and after some drinks, Wigintton agreed to go with her date to his place. "We started hooking up, but I ended up telling him to stop, and he didn't," she says. A week later, she found out that he had a serious girlfriend.

Wigintton had met her attacker in college only a few years before the incident. She did not report the attack to the authorities, which occurred before she started her program at USC.

“Seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim,” according to statistics gathered by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also known as RAINN.

Wigintton had only told a couple of her close friends about the assault, but she has now found a new way to cope with this traumatic event. She is writing and directing a short film that is closely based on her experience for one of her cinema classes.

Le Veque says this campaign is "generating a lot of buzz." He says talks on social issues tend to fade out within a couple hours, but in this case, it has been ongoing for a full day.

Wynn believes that "Me too" sparked a conversation on this issue. But for JT Arowosaye, a USC senior seeking a career in entertainment journalism, this is not the case because people are only liking or sharing a reaction.

USC student JT Arowosaye joined the “Me too” conversation taking place on Facebook. (Photo by Claudia Buccio)
USC student JT Arowosaye joined the “Me too” conversation taking place on Facebook. (Photo by Claudia Buccio)

"I think what is powerful of 'Me too' is that people realize 'oh, this is how many people are dealing with it, and I know these people,'" she says.

Arowosaye joined the "Me too" campaign after suffering sexual harassment and assault on multiple occasions. "I don't necessarily feel more comfortable talking about it. I still like to not think about it and talk about it, and honestly, it makes me pretty angry and upset," she says.

"Me too" helped Wigintton realize how common this abuse is within her social and professional circles. "I feel like it is really powerful to see that everyone has had similar experiences and that they are being brave enough to post it publicly for everyone to see," she says.

"I think one of the worst things to feel when you've been sexually assaulted or harassed or even raped is to feel alone," Arowosaye says.

From a sample of 400,000 social posts, Le Veque found that 75% of them were made by women while only 25% of them were made by men.

Both Wigintton and Arowosaye would want to see more men engaged in the conversation.

"I would love to see a male ally reach out and provide support or just some sort of showing that they understand and that that kind of brought awareness to something," Wigintton says.

While "Me Too" carries momentum, Arowosaye would like to see people who have social privilege use their platform and take action to support victims.

Miki Turner, a USC professor and expert on sports, entertainment, and social media, believes the campaign will have an impact but doesn't think "it will be enough to bring down the culture."

"My concern is that people will hop on this bandwagon and not really have been impacted by sexual harassment and that might overshadow the people that really have been affected," Turner says.

She still hopes "it becomes a safer environment for women and men who have been impacted by sexual harassment in this town."