The Twitter hashtag #IDidNotReport has been trending for over a week now. After being started by an English blogger called “The London Feminist,” men and women alike have been taking to the social network to share their stories of abuse and their reasons for not reporting the crime when it happened.
But they’re reporting it now. The tweets range from “because my parents said his touches were “innocent”, he just misses having a daughter” to “I always thought that I don’t actually have a story. Then I realized that I do. #IDidNotReport because I thought it was my fault.”
There are dozens of heartbreaking and telling stories playing out all over the Twitterverse right now, showing what sexual violence and abuse really looks like, from the keyboards and memories of thousands of men, women, and children all over the world.
One of the most touching parts of the campaign is the chance for anonymity. Instead of tweeting your story from your twitter handle, you are able to log into a twitter account specifically for sharing abuse stories anonymously.
The shame and stigma attached to victims of sexual violence is global. In some countries, the victim is seen as being dirty and no longer fit for marriage. Recently in Morocco, a 16 year old victim of rape was forced to marry her rapist, a legal way of restoring her “honor” and exonerating him. She killed herself by drinking rat poison. In Western countries, victims are often simply not believed. On every corner of the earth, the victim is blamed in a myriad of ways. In essence, there is no relief. And to make matters worse, even in countries that do recognize sexual violence as a public health epidemic, when economic and financial hardship hits, services for such survivors are the first to go.
Every single day, three women are killed by husbands or boyfriends. In 2010, over half of domestic violence victims who identified as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer) were turned away from NY shelters. Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67% of sexual abuse and related matters that occurred in areas controlled by Native American tribes.
Here at home, such services are being targeted by right-wing ideologues. While this worldwide epidemic of sexual violence attacks mostly women, but also men and children, Republicans in Congress are opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. As I’ve written before, this legislation ”is literally the centerpiece of our national efforts to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Since this bill was originally enacted, reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51 percent. To say that this piece of legislation is a triumph and a necessary component to our efforts to ensure the safety and security of our citizens would be an understatement.” Reauthorization of this bill would improve programs to assist victims, aid prosecutors, and focus more time, attention, and resources on underserved communities such as those identifying as LGBTQ or Native American, both of whom are more likely to be victimized than others.
There’s too much silence and too much confusion in our communities and in our culture about sexual assault and rape. We talk about it poorly, so perpetrators don’t understand that rape isn’t about whether they did or did not use violence, but instead, whether the victim did or did not consent. We illustrate it poorly, so that our youth believes gender-based violence is cool, or sexy, or not a big deal. We prosecute it poorly, blaming the victim for the criminal actions of their assaulter.
Why? Why are we all so stigmatized, ignored, brushed over, and blamed when we do report abuse? How did we get to a place where the safety and security and well-being of our citizens wasn’t the number one priority for our government, our society, and our community?
It is time to end the silence. Join @Fem2pt0 and others at this Thursday, March 22 at 3:00 PM EST to talk about these and other issues. We’ll be discussing the conversation taking place at #IDidNotReport, but in order to respect the space of survivors who are speaking out, we’ll talk at a different hashtag: #EndTheSilence. Only by bringing these stories into the light and by actively engaging in community discussion can we start to end the stigma, the blame, and the violence that too many of us are experiencing every day. If you have ideas to promote, resources to share, or even just a concern about these crimes, check in with us at #EndTheSilence tomorrow at 3PM.