Local leaders weigh in on #MeToo

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The MeToo hashtag has filled headlines since last year's allegations of sexual misconduct by high-profile executives and politicians. Twitter reports more tan 1.7 million women and me have used the hashtag, often to share their experiences of sexual harassment or assault. Local leaders share how the hashtag impacts southwest Virginia.

As an employment lawyer, Leigh Strelka says she's seen an increase of victims reaching out to her about issues in the workplace. "Over my practice I've spoken with hundreds, it's more prevalent than I think general society realizes," said Leigh Strelka.

Advocates like Laura Guilliams saw the hashtag to viral and says 'it's about time'. "We've been working so hard to create an environment and space for survivors voices to be heard."

If someone feels they have been violated, time and documentation of the even is essential. "We encourage family to support and encourage the victim to explore options, understand their rights sooner rather than later, which can be difficult because it is intimidating," said Strelka.

Organizations like SARA offer free counseling services and a crisis hotline for victims and their families. Guilliams helps survivors decide what is best for their situation. She says now that the silence is broken it will take a community effort to keep people safe. "We would be completely ok if we worked ourselves out of a job," said Guilliams. Guilliams hope to work with more schools, employers, civic and religious groups to spread awareness about sexual harassment and assault.