The cover story of New York magazine (opens in new tab) this week is a chillingly powerful portrait of 35 women who have all accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. It's a lot to take in—which is exactly the point—and it's been widely discussed in recent days.
But now a new narrative is evolving.
On the cover, after rows of women sitting in chairs, there's one empty chair. It was meant to represent the 11 other known accusers who chose not to participate in the story, but whose experiences are no less valid and still need to be considered.
That chair has now taken on a life of its own. Under the hashtag #TheEmptyChair, thousands of people are speaking out about how many victims of sexual assault feel voiceless, powerless, and unable to come forward. (A gut punch: According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, there are about 293,000 sexual assaults a year—and an eye-watering 68% of them go unreported.)
Journalist Elon James White, who publishes This Week in Blackness, was the first to use #TheEmptyChair hashtag, and ended up receiving hundreds of direct messages, emails, and Facebook messages from anonymous women who felt compelled to share their stories of sexual assault. He started sharing those stories on Twitter on Sunday, and he hasn't stopped yet.
The concept is similar to the blog I Believe You | It's Not Your Fault, which posts submitted stories about sexual assault and gives advice to survivors. But with Cosby in the news, it's more important than ever to show how much of a problem rape culture really is.
Powerfully, people have used #TheEmptyChair to give messages of support and love to victims everywhere.
If you are in the #TheEmptyChair - you are not alone, you are not defined by what happened to you. I believe you. I hear you. I stand w/ youJuly 27, 2015
Do not wait for a man to speak to believe women who are already talking. Nothing to add. #TheEmptyChairJuly 27, 2015
Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Don't Show Up to the Coronation, It Would Be a "Fatal, Irreversible Blow" for the Royal Rift: Expert
That sounds about right.
By Iris Goldsztajn
I’m a Shopping Editor—My All-Time Favorite Going Out Top Is On Sale at J.Crew
*So* many great things are 40% off right now
By Julia Marzovilla
Beauty Around The Clock: Becky G
The Latin music sensation and beauty guru talks positivity, finding balance, and why mental health is so important for women of color.
By Gabrielle Ulubay
30 Female-Friendly Porn Websites for Any Mood
All the best websites, right this way.
By Kayleigh Roberts
70 Cheap Date Ideas for Couples on a Budget
"Love don't cost a thing." —J.Lo
By The Editors
Diary of a Non-Monogamist
Rachel Krantz, author of the new book 'Open,' shares the ups and downs of her journey into the world of open relationships.
By Abigail Pesta
71 Fun Date Ideas for 2023
Skip the old "dinner and a movie" for something original.
By Katherine J. Igoe
COVID Forced My Polyamorous Marriage to Become Monogamous
For Melanie LaForce, pandemic-induced social distancing guidelines meant she could no longer see men outside of her marriage. But monogamy didn't just change her relationship with her husband—it changed her relationship with herself.
By Melanie LaForce
How the pandemic has mutated our most personal disunions.
By Gretchen Voss
16 At-Home Date Ideas When You're Stuck Indoors
Staying in doesn't have to be boring.
By Katherine J. Igoe
Long Distance Relationship Gift Ideas for Couples Who've Made It This Far
Alexa, play "A Thousand Miles."
By Jaimie Potters