KIEV, Ukraine -- I was scrolling through an online discussion where people were blaming a rape victim for what had happened to her, when I knew that I had to do something.
In cases like this in Ukraine, and throughout the post-Soviet world, people immediately start to question what the woman did wrong.
Maybe she was wearing a short skirt?
Maybe she was walking home too late?
Or maybe she was drunk?
The suggestion is that a woman is guilty simply because she is a woman.
I raised the issue on my Facebook page and shared my own experiences of sexual harassment – which started aged six and continued into adulthood – and the story quickly went viral as thousands of women started to add their stories.
The #IAmNotScaredToSpeak campaign (#яНеБоюсьСказати in Ukrainian; #яНеБоюсьСказать in Russian) is against the treatment of women as sexual objects.
I wanted to show that women face harassment regardless of their age, clothing or what time they decide to walk home.
Why this hashtag?
It’s empowering, it says that a woman shouldn’t feel fear or shame for the things that happen to her.
For many it was the first time they had spoken out about their experiences, and as the campaign gathered traction last week I was concerned that some women might be forced to relive their trauma.
However, a specialist told me that people don’t share stories on social media unless they are ready to talk.
Their voices came as a shock for Russia and Ukraine, where domestic violence and sexual abuse are often taboo topics, and swept under the carpet.
‘Don’t wash your dirty linen in public’
In Russia and Ukraine people who have been raped find it very difficult to talk about it, due to the culture we live in.
We’ve developed a mentality of “don’t wash your dirty linen in public”, a situation which is harmful for women and men.
The objectification of women is also rife.
In this climate, how do we explain to little girls that they can say no, and that they have the right to their own boundaries.
And how do we teach boys that no means no and about the limits of acceptable behavior?
Some people have said that an online campaign won’t solve the problem, but I believe that starting a public discussion is a necessary to finding a solution.
It turns out that you can’t afford to share openly sexist views if you’re a public figure.
At first, the trend was positive with lots of people writing about their experiences.
By the third day, the negative reactions and criticisms were rising.
But however you look at it there was a discussion.
Everyone is talking about it.
Those who have openly ridiculed the campaign have been called to account: it turns out that you can no longer afford to share openly sexist views if you’re a public figure in Russia or Ukraine.
We need to recognise that every incident of sexual harassment, every individual’s story, is important.
Once people have seen the scale of the problem they can no longer turn a blind eye.
Source: The Guardian