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For the past year, actress Rosanna Arquette has been a leading voice in the #MeToo movement, headlining events, giving interviews and lending her star power to the fight against sexual misconduct in the workplace.
But even though she’s no stranger to the stage, she said being applauded for her activism by 1,500 women from across the media and entertainment industry at the “Power Women Summit” in downtown Los Angeles late last week was so overwhelming, she completely blanked out.
“I had a little shutdown,” she told TheWrap, almost apologetically. “I kind of went out of my body for minute. I felt really emotional being with the girls.”
Arquette, who was among the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct last year, was one of more than two dozen activists honored at the event, aimed at achieving gender equity in entertainment and media. For many, it was their first time receiving a thunderous ovation for their activism.
“You could feel this energy, like going to your first day of school or something,” Arquette said. “I was so nervous. Are the girls going to be mean? Is everything going to be OK?”
Coming forward has taken a toll on many #MeToo accusers. For some, the last year has been marked with a barrage of attacks from internet trolls. Others have lost their jobs. Almost all have experienced what experts call “secondary traumatization.”
Being recognized for their role in the grassroots movement along with fellow activists served as a moment of catharsis for many.
The event, which was organized by TheWrap, featured some of the most recognizable names within the fledgeling movement, including actresses Mira Sorvino and Jessica Barth, both Weinstein accusers, and Illeana Douglas, who accused Les Moonves of sexual misconduct in July. Other speakers included women’s rights icons Anita Hill, who became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.
Like many women activists and accusers in attendance, Arquette said she had communicated with several of them over email and Twitter, but that in many cases, this was the first time they had met in person.
“It makes me cry,” she said choking back tears. “I feel very emotional about it.”
As Arquette spoke, a steady stream of women politely interrupted our chat to thank her for her “courage” and to ask for a selfie. Arquette, best-known for her iconic roles in “Pulp Fiction” and “Desperately Seeking Susan,” graciously obliged.
“It’s just been a really inspirational day and it makes me feel happy to be a woman right now more than ever,” she said.
The day was emotional for Barth, too.
Barth, known for playing Tami-Lynn McCaferty in the “Ted” films, said meeting the women and getting such a vocal recognition from the crowd caught her off guard.
“It was just really powerful to be in the same room with everybody who’s kind of been through this in the past year,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get choked up at all.”
For Barth, like Arquette, seeing the sea of faces cheering her on was “monumental.”
“To hear this movement being talked about is a shift of how we’re looking at sexual abuse in our culture,” she said. “It’s just really freeing to come together as a community of survivors.”
As part of the event’s programming, the women were invited to a special closed training session on how to cope with trauma, conducted by trauma specialist and Weinstein accuser Louise Godbold.
Godbold said the training session was attended by roughly 100 women, including #MeToo founder Burke and actress Mira Sorvino — who accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct last October.
“It was quite an extraordinary experience,” Godbold told TheWrap. “I do these training all the time and I’ve never felt such unity and support.”
“I presented the information the way that I usually do because I’m very familiar with it and yet the underlying thing was a sense of, we’re all in this together,” Godbold said, adding that she had a difficult time holding back tears throughout the day.
Chantal Cousineau, who last year was one of nearly 400 women to accuse director James Toback of sexual misconduct, said being in a room full of supportive women was “moving” but that the real reward was the chance to show others her ability “to stand up” for herself.
“It’s amazing to finally be heard and seen from a survivor’s perspective,” she said.
Arquette said the event served as “a safe space for everybody to swap stories and ideas and to connect with filmmakers and artists and politicians.”
“It’s just really a great vibe,” she said. “Women should rule the world.”