The Facebook campaign has started last week in Ukrainian and Russian Facebook segment. Ukrainian journalist Nastya Melnichenko post under a hashtag #IamNotSkaredToTell (Russian #ЯнебоюсьCказать Ukrainian #ЯнебоюсьСказати) started a flood of blood-chilling stories about sexual abuse, harassment and rape.
Suddenly, it appeared that virtually every woman I knew or has been a Facebook friend with happened to be a victim of a sexual attack, rape or an exhibitionist behavior. Everyone, from my university friend, now a well-known literary critic, to my french teacher, to an ex-coworker, to the famous Russian-American journalist Julia Joffe.
Some even survived multiple attacks and had been raped several times by relatives, ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands or close friends. And all that not even counting multiple instances of constant harassment or indecent assaults on the workplace and in public transportation.
One of the women, I knew before as a cheerful, lively and friendly person, was molested while being a child by a relative, survived a gang-rape at the age of 20 and after that was repeatedly raped by an ex-boyfriend at 25.
Things published under that hashtag most of all resembled to me the memories of the victims of military conflicts. Same feeling of helplessness, immobilizing horror, suppressed anger, depression and memories of hell chasing you for all your life.
Almost every woman that has gone through this hell never ever told about that to anyone before. Even to the parents. All of the cases were never reported to the law enforcement and all of the child molesters, rapists and sex attackers that did that went unpunished. Shame, guilt, fear of rejection and ridicule of their peers, relatives or friends, psycological inability to recollect the traumatic experience haunts the rape victims for all their lives and will haunt them for ever.
Everyone of them fears to go out to the street after dark, to sleep over when visiting friends or relatives. Many carry self-defence weapons. When getting in a taxi cab, they always sit in the back, preferably right behind a driver and are afraid to travel by the public transportation, because it’s there, where most of sexual assaults take place. They always live a life of fear and danger.
The first words of Nastya Melnichenko’s post are these: “I want us women to speak up today. I want us to speak up about violence the majority of us went through. I want us not to apologise … We don’t need to apologise. We are not guilty of anything, it’s the rapist, who is always guilty. I am not scared to speak up and I don’t feel guilty.”
Why am I writing about this. Because it’s not about “some distant people we know so little about”. It’s about us. Sexual assault is not a single-county, single-culture, single-anything issue.
Ex-president Moshe Katzav serves a ridiculous sentence of 7 years for raping three women and may be released soon not serving even a half, because prison authorities assume that “his behavior has changed” in prison.
Last May a prominent ultra-Orthodox Rabbi, Naftali Maklev, was accused of raping his three nieces, “hundreds of times” over the course of “many years.” One of the victims was 6-years-old when the alleged crimes began. Brigade General Ofek Buhris, the rising star of IDF command, is accused of five counts of rape, with new evidence pouring in every month. This is just the most notorious cases of sexual assault, that has been reported by the media recently.
According to statistical data, published in 2012 by Public Security Ministry, every third Israeli woman had once been a victim of a sexual assault and only 20% percent of the cases has been reported to the police of which 75% has never made it to court. In 2013 alone the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted 5,238 cases of sexual offenses. That means that in reality there has been more than a hundred thousand sexual offenses against women and girls has happened that year. Around 76% of Israeli women “live in constant fear” of sexual assault, according to the same report from 2012.
Two thirds of women in this country fear every day, that they will be attacked not by a terrorist armed with a knife, but just by any man. That is horrible and outrageous.
It means that we are in the state of war, war against our own women.
Against our daughters, sisters and mothers.
We, the nation, that is supposed to care for every life.
It’s time for Israeli women to start their #notskaredtotell Facebook campaign too.