16 October 2017
As a growing number of actors come forward to allege that they were raped or sexually assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, women across the world are using social media to stand with survivors of sexual violence and show that they are not alone. Using the hashtag #MeToo, hundreds of thousands of women are sharing that they too have faced sexual assault and harassment and are bravely breaking the silence that surrounds it.
Breaking the silence is important. It shows that the shame is the perpetrator's, not the survivor's, and that these attacks aren't isolated cases confined to Hollywood - they are a reality that women around the world are facing every day.
One in three women experiences physical or sexual violence
Research shows that globally one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. But many won't report it for fear of stigma or reprisal from their families and communities.
Anne Bucheche was attacked by a militia group during clan clashes over land disputes in western Kenya and sexually assaulted in front of her children and husband. She was selling onions in her local market when the group demanded cash from her. Later that evening, they turned up at her house, said she must be hiding the money and forced her legs apart to search her.
“They were demanding more money, but I didn’t have it," she says. "A gun was held to my head so that I did not scream at all."
After this horrific experience, Anne was helped by ActionAid with medical care and facilitated groups where she and other survivors could support each other and share what had happened to them. With support from ActionAid, Anne now campaigns for the rights of women and girls and is focused on breaking the culture of silence.
"We want to break the silence around sexual violence"
In Liberia, Jimisha Dahn, 23 is an active member of Women Speak, a women's group at her university.
“When I am walking on the street or even at university, men will come and tell me that I should not dress the way I do and that I should look different if I want to stay safe," she says. "I tell them that my body is my own and I’ll do what I like with it."
“No woman here is an exception. All women have suffered or will suffer sexual violence, even if they won't talk about it. All women in Liberia live in fear of this."
With Women Speak, Jimisha presents a radio show, supported by ActionAid, in which she can raise these issues and campaign against harrassment.
"We want to break the silence around sexual violence, harassment and rape. If we don't talk about things it means that the men who carry out these acts don't have to take responsibility for what they do," she says.
That's why movements like #MeToo are so important. We celebrate the strength of survivors of sexual assault, and the bravery they show sharing their experiences. We need to speak out to end violence against women and girls, and challenge the systems and structures that condone it, so they can fulfil their potential and live lives without fear.