'I was innocent': #MeAt14 sends poignant message amid Roy Moore assault allegations
Social media users are sharing photos of themselves at the age of 14 as a reminder that teenagers are too young to consent.
The hashtag #MeAt14 began circulating online in response to allegations that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore engaged in a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old when he was 32. There are several other allegations that Moore pursued sexual relations with teenage girls.
WATCH: Roy Moore denies sex assault allegations
The social media conversation was sparked by Twitter user Cat Lawson.
“The point is you’re a kid, you’re a child,” Lawson said during an interview. “And the responsibility of adults around children is to protect them.”
— Catherine R L Lawson (@catlawson) November 10, 2017
Others, including celebrities such as actress Alyssa Milano and journalist Katie Couric, also posted photos with the hashtag. They shared stories of what their life was like at 14.
“I was innocent,” Milano wrote.
#MeAt14 I worshipped my brother. I loved my dog, Pucci. I loved OMD. I had Big hair. I was happy. I was innocent.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) November 12, 2017
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) November 12, 2017
— Mary Ann Campbell (@Memberberryvine) November 12, 2017
Others used the hashtag to share their own stories of sexual abuse as teenagers.
This is #MeAt14. I'd already endured several years of sexual assault and physical abuse by adults. This was me, finally happy, in my 2nd adoption. A short time after this was taken, I assaulted twice by my peers. pic.twitter.com/ulDYDbRoXC
— Myschevious Chris 🐻 (@Ynubet) November 12, 2017
“A picture around the age when as a teen #MeAt14 when I was sexually assaulted, over 40 years ago,” one Twitter user by the name of Timothy McBride wrote.
“I did not report it, nor tell anyone, since I didn’t know it was assault. I do now. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
A picture around the age when as a teen #MeAt14 when I was sexually assaulted, over 40 years ago. Still remember it to this day, though at the time I did not report it, nor tell anyone, since I didn't know it was assault. I do now,
That doesn't mean it didn't happen @MooreSenate pic.twitter.com/EjcxBluzCg
— Timothy McBride (@mcbridetd) November 11, 2017
Since the Washington Post reported on the allegations last week, several public figures have come forward defending Moore, saying teenagers consented to the alleged relations and that they occurred many years ago.
Moore himself has maintained that the allegations are “fake news.” On Monday, a statement was given by his fifth accuser, Beverly Nelson, who alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager in the 1970s.
Nelson spoke of one incident in particular, where she alleged Moore offered to drive her home from work but then proceeded to assault her. She said he groped her, then squeezed her neck, leaving it black and blue for days.
WATCH: Woman alleges Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager
“Mr. Moore began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts,” she said. “I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head into his crotch.”
When she fought back, he gave up and allegedly told her: “You’re just a child,” adding, “I’m the district attorney, if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”
Nelson also spoke in detail about Moore’s flirtatious behaviour with her while she worked at a restaurant he regularly dined at, noting one incident where he signed her yearbook.
“To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore,” the message read.
The Republican candidate, who has been urged to step aside by several politicians, denied the allegations: “I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don’t even know the woman,” Moore said.
WATCH: #MeToo, now where do we go from here?
Now, with the controversy surrounding Moore increasing, and the many people sharing their stories with #MeAt14, Lawson hopes the conversation will keep going.
“I definitely hope that the people who have come forward, and the people who have platforms far larger than mine ever will be, do use it to keep this conversation going.”