#metoo

I have been watching the hashtag metoo gradually take hold on twitter with a stomach full of knots.

In one way I am pleased and proud of my sisters in arms for standing up to be counted. If we collude in a silent culture of fear and we don’t out ourselves and the gender based violence, harassment and oppression we face then how can we seek to make a positive change in the world?

And yet, it is not us, the so often silent majority, who need to make this change. It is not victims but perpetrators who need to change to make the world a safer place for women and girls. I fear for those too traumatised to speak out that they will feel condemned for their silence.

We do not owe you our stories of abuse. It is not our job to educate you. But there is no #itwasme trend and instead #notallmen lingers in cyber space as a perpetually bad smell.

#metoo in it’s bid to raise awareness of violence against women and girls misses the point. Yes, notallmen are perpetrators but yesallwomen experience harassment, abuse and violence. Whilst some women will tell me they have been lucky and never felt restricted by their gender even a tiny bit of questioning usually unveils stories which ‘were not a big deal’ or ‘harmless banter’ or ‘just his way.’

This year I ran a group for young women with learning disabilities. Every girl and young woman in that group had received either unwanted attention, unsolicited sexual images, verbal abuse or sexual touching. The youngest was twelve. And, whilst I taught them to speak up for themselves, get help and call out misogynists where they encountered them, I was grimly aware that they should not have been the focus of my attention.

For every survivor who posts #metoo there is someone who perpetrated that crime and violated that woman. They walk amongst us Hidden in plain sight. Change is possible and it starts with them.

#metoo

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