September 01, 2016

Not Afraid

a recent facebook dustup, where one side blamed a woman for provoking a sexual assault by dressing attractively, has unleashed an unprecedented public discussion in the Russian-speaking online world on violence against women – a topic normally far outside the mainstream.

Fed up with the narrative that blames the victim for wearing revealing clothing or engaging in “inappropriate behavior,” Ukrainian activist Anastasia Melny­­chenko posted a list of incidents of harassment, assault and inappropriate behavior she has experienced as a woman. This then led to two social media hashtags, #янебоюсьсказать‬ (Russian) and #янебоюсьсказати (Ukrainian), that have gone viral, exposing widespread sexual abuse of women throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. ‬‬

The topic – normally spurned by mainstream Russian media as a marginal feminist concern and rarely discussed even among friends – was suddenly top news, leading “Sisters,” a Moscow NGO that encourages victims of domestic violence to seek help, to be swamped by incoming help-line phone calls.

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