Millions of women have taken to Twitter in recent days to describe their experiences of unwanted sexual advances after Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump's boasted that he used his celebrity status to grope and kiss beautiful young women.
Hilary Pacha, director of prevention and empowerment services at the McLean County YWCA, says she hopes the outrage over Trump's remarks will spark a sustained national discussion about sexual harassment.
"We need to continue to have the conversations and show we're not going to stand for it because the moment we stop doing that we're just silencing the problem, and silencing it is going to allow this type of oppression to continue," Pacha said.
Pacha said those who dismiss Trump's actions as merely "locker room" boasting are perpetuating what she calls a "culture of rape."
Nearly 27 million women posted tweets about their personal experiences of harassment after author Kelly Oxford invited women to "Tweet me your first sexual assaults," The New York Times reported.
"I'll go first," Oxford wrote on Twitter. "Old man on bus grabs my 'p___' and smiles at me, I'm 12."
Numerous women wrote of similar experiences happening even before they reached puberty.
Pacha said such incidents will continue unless men too vow to fight predatory behavior against women.
"Sexual assault is not going to end just because women say I'm not going to stand for you grabbing me without my permission. If that's the case, this would have ended a long time ago. We really need for that male privilege to speak up and say, 'We're not going to stand for it. No, Donald Trump, you are wrong."
Trump's remarks were captured on a 2005 audio tape while he was traveling with the NBC-TV show "Access Hollywood" prior to making a cameo appearance on a soap opera. Trump also used vulgar language to describe female body parts.
Trump dismissed the comments as mere talk that did not represent actions he took. He apologized to his family and the nation in Sunday's town hall debate with his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, but the apology has done little to quell the furor.