Kit Steinkellner
Updated July 28, 2015 8:14 am

New York Magazine recently released a piece the publication has been working on for the last 6 months, a piece that collected the experiences of 35 of the 46 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault and published them together. The testimonies were powerful, and what was equally powerful was the photograph that accompanied the piece. The 35 women sat in 4 rows chairs, there were 35 women, but there were 36 chairs, that final chair remaining empty. Some have posited that this chair was left open for the 11 women who chose not to participate in the piece, or for those that had possibly experienced sexual violence at the hands of Bill Cosby that have not come forward, and may never come forward.

There are others that see this open chair as a nod of solidarity towards all sexual assault survivors. Whoever you are, whoever your attacker was, whatever your experience was, you are welcome to sit in this chair surrounded by people who understand and support you.

As The Washington Post reports, journalist Elon White was one of the first to use the hashtag, posting direct messages (DMs) he received on Twitter from women who cannot share their stories publicly, but still wanted their voices to be heard.

“It’s not so much that the conversation is new here, but the Cosby cover gave people a moment to speak about it,” White explained to The Washington Post. “Hundreds of thousands of women feeling that they belong in that empty chair.”

In addition to the hashtag being used by survivors who are privately DM-ing White, #TheEmptyChair is also being used publicly as a hashtag by a community that wants to support their survivors and end sexual assault.

We are blown away by the outpouring of love and support we’re seeing for survivors of sexual violence, and we hope that 2015 goes down in the history books as the year when the conversation started to change, the year when survivors en masse started to feel widespread support and solidarity, the year when things started to change for the better.