Empowering victims

Organizer of #IAmNotAfraidToSayIt explains meaning behind hashtag


Anastasiya Melnychenko, the head of Ukrainian human rights organization Studena and organizer of the new social media campaign #IAmNotAfraidToSayIt, has penned an article further explaining her motivations and hopes for the hashtag. According to Melnychenko, cases and stories of rape in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries are immediately greeted with questions about “what the woman did wrong” — perhaps the woman was “wearing a short skirt,” or was “drunk,” or “walking home too late.” In short, Melnychenko argues, “the suggestion is that a woman is guilty simply because she is a woman.”

By sharing her own story of sexual abuse — which began at the age of 6 and continued into adulthood — Melnychenko said she hoped to encourage other women to speak out about their own experiences. The wording of the hashtag itself, she explained, was also intended to be empowering — to express that “a woman shouldn’t feel fear or shame for the things that happen to her.”

The outpouring of stories has shocked readers in Russia and Ukraine, Melnychenko said, where domestic violence and sexual abuse are normally considered a major taboo. This mentality, she argues, in concert with what she calls “rife” objectification of women in Russia and Ukraine, makes it hard to “explain to little girls that they can say no” and to boys “that no means no.” Ultimately, Melnychenko believes that generating a discussion is important and necessary. “Once people have seen the scale of the problem,” she writes, “they can no longer turn a blind eye.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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