Local News

Raleigh woman's #MeAt14 hashtag goes viral amid sex assault allegations

Posted November 13, 2017 5:31 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2017 10:45 p.m. EST

— A Raleigh lawyer has created a social media wave amid the allegations that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted young girls decades ago while he was a prosecutor in Alabama.

Five women have come forward in recent days to share stories of their encounters with Moore. Although Moore has vehemently denied the accusations, a growing number of Republican leaders are demanding that he drop out of the Senate race.

"We've had months now of constant revelations of sexual misconduct, and the fact that this story was about children really made it that much worse," Catherine Lawson said Monday.

After the initial story broke last week, Lawson said, she wanted to illustrate that a 14-year-old girl cannot consent to sex. So, last Thursday night, she tweeted a photo of herself at age 14 with "Can't consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere" and the hashtag #MeAt14.

"I was so introverted and nerdy. I was smart and good at school, and that led adults to treat me older than I was, but I had no emotional capacity to know anything about life," she said. "You don't justify predatory behavior. I thought a way of illustrating that would be to post a picture of myself. It just kind of came to this is me at 14. This is what childhood for me looked like."

The hashtag quickly exploded across Twitter, with women picking it up and using it with their own teen photos.

"I was at the mall with my friends, not old/mature enough for a relationship with a grown man," said one.

"My bed was still covered with stuffed animals," said another.

"I was in marching band, a complete moron with my fashion choices but not dating a 32 year old," a third said.

"The response had been really extraordinary," Lawson said. "Several people with much bigger platforms than I have picked it up and shared it."

Actress Alyssa Milano and journalist Katie Couric are among the women who tweeted #MeAt14 posts.

"It's been a really incredible thing to watch happen," Lawson said. "I am 30 years old right now, and this accomplishment is creating a platform for people to share their stories of their childhood and affirm that children are worth protecting."