Ruam Chuay / 16 days  / 11 social media movements that shine a light on sexual violence
Today, we're talking about how we raise awareness of sexual violence through social media

11 social media movements that shine a light on sexual violence

Hashtag Movements  

Social media has been an avenue for many to share their stories when it comes to sexual violence. It’s given people from all corners of the world a way to connect with others who have had common experiences. Hashtags (#) are used to help us search for, find, and contribute to specific conversations.

You’ve probably noticed, especially over the last two years, we’ve seen several hashtags used to highlight posts related to sexual violence. They range from hashtags designed to raise awareness of everyday street harassment, call out problems with victim-blaming to serving as a way for people to show their support for one another.

Does it really make a difference?

Critics have nicknamed social media activism as “slacktivism” and questioned whether or not it actually contributes to creating any real social change.

However, when it comes to sexual violence, an issue often swept under the rug—these hashtags have turned into movements. They represent people using their voice to break the silence.

As we’ve seen with #metoo, the more popular the hashtag, the more likely it’ll influence public discourse. And, as you’ll see in our roundup below, many hashtags have also lead to in person, offline events, programming, and enable advocacy.

At Ruam Chuay, we’ve seen a shift in culture since these hashtag movements have surfaced. When our team started work in this space about 4 years ago, we’ve offered both awareness and prevention programs on sexual violence. Up until October 2017, Ruam Chuay’s team was primarily asked to help raise awareness.

Now, the question we get from our community changed from “is this really a problem?” to “what can we do about it?  The shift in public discourse helped people recognize the problem, validating the need for our prevention programs.

Here are 13 hashtags related to sexual violence awareness and advocacy and what they stand for:

1. #MeToo

When did it start? Who popularized it?

The #MeToo hashtag was first used by Tarana Burke in 2006 on MySpace. Then, it was revitalized in October 2017, when Alyssa Milano used the hashtag on Twitter to bring attention to sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

Why did it start? What’s the purpose?

Originally, Tarana Burke used the hashtag to help survivors find solidarity. For members of her community, young black women from low-income communities in the United States, to connect with each other if they had experienced sexual assault.

Tarana Burke has said “Violence is violence. Trauma is Trauma” and stressed the importance of healing. The goal was to build empathy and empower survivors. On the MeToo movement’s website, they describe the movement as “disrupting a system that allows the global proliferation of sexual violence.”   

Now, the hashtag has evolved. Into a movement involving people from all classes, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And is focused on calling for perpetrators of violence to be held accountable for their actions.

Me Too photograph by Mihai Surdu

2. #DontTellMeHowToDress

When did it start? Who popularized it?

Cindy Sirinya Bishop used the hashtag #DontTellMeHowToDress after she read an article a comment in an by the Thai Department of Local Administration. The article described that there are higher rates of sexual assault during Thai New Year. Hoping there would be some call to action or call for change she read until the end of the article but was left outraged to read a comment by Songkran, General Sutthipong Chulchareon. The comment directed women to avoid dressing “sexy” during the festival.

This comment prompted Cindy Sirinya Bishop to post on her social media channels using the hashtag #donttellmehowtodress” and “tellmentorespect”

Why did it start? What’s the purpose?

The goal was to highlight that it does not matter what a woman wears. It’s never the fault of the person who was assaulted. Cindy says men need to learn to keep their hands to themselves. Since the hashtag went viral, she has gone on to host an exhibit featuring the clothes of people who have survived assault. To help demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what someone was wearing. And, that it’s time we focus on the actions of the perpetrator.

The concept behind #DontTellMeHowToAddress tackles the issue of victim-blaming that is all too common when sexual harassment cases are discussed.

3. #TimesUp

When did it start? How did it start?

It began on January 1, 2018 when a group of 300+ women in Hollywood got together in response to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and after the #metoo movement.

What’s the purpose?

The purpose of the TimesUp movement is to address workplace harassment. On their website, they raised money for a legal defense fund. The goal is to help women in the workplace access to legal support to hold their perpetrators accountable. It’s a call to address systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace.

4. #ThaiConsent

Who started it? When did it start?

The hashtag #ThaiConsent was started by Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, a young activist in 2015. Wongsawang had a realization that there were so many people in her community who have been sexually assaulted by people they knew. And, that there was a lack of accountability or support for people who have experienced this type of violence.

She started this hashtag to support people to have been affected by interpersonal violence.

What’s the purpose? What does it focus on?

The goal was to spread awareness in Thailand about this issue and the lack of support survivors get from their families. Wongsawang created a space for survivors to share their stories through writing in and submitting artwork to the website or sharing their stories using the hashtag on social media.

5. #NotGuilty

When did it start? Who started it?

This hashtag became popular in April 2015. When Ione Wells published an open letter about her experience of assault. It was a letter addressed to her assaulter. And to her surprise, people responded by using the hashtag too. A group of students at her university had published a website and used the hashtag on Social Media, and people started sending in their story after hearing Wells.

What did it focus on?

The purpose is to prevent sexual violence and misdirected victim blaming. And, for people to open up and share their stories about their assaulters. And to promote teaching consent and that any unwanted sexual activities are wrong. It also provides a way for people who have experienced sexual violence to connect.

She has a great TedTalk about this hashtag and how we use social media, that we’ve shared in this post.

6. #ThisIsNotConsent

Why did it start?

Last month, November 2018, this hashtag trended on social media in response to a rape trial taking place in Ireland. Ruth Coppinger tweeted about the trial when the lawyer defending the man accused of rape decided to use the complainant’s underwear as evidence. The defense was that because her underwear was a lacy thong, it implied consent.  

Originally, the hashtag was created in a closed Facebook group called Mna na hEireann (Women of Ireland) by Susan Dillon. A 40 year old woman who wanted to find an impactful way to draw attention to this issue.  

What was the purpose?

The purpose of the hashtag, and the public protests in Ireland, were to communicate that there is no such thing as implied consent based on what someone is wearing. Clothing is not a form of consent. And to suggest that is an act of victim-blaming. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of this and end victim blaming in the courts.

Conversations can spark change

7. #WhyIDidntReport

When did it start? Why?

It began in September 2018, when survivors of sexual harassment and assault wanted to express the reasons they don’t report their experiences. The use of the hashtag was accompanied by stories describing the feelings that follow experience assault and the challenges with reporting.

It started in response to a tweet by President Trump where he questioned whether or not Dr. Blasey Ford was telling the truth. He suggested that she would have reported it right away if it were true. This prompted a strong reaction, since there are so many challenges for survivors when reporting.

What was it about?

Unfortunately, survivors of violence don’t find it easy to report. Often times survivors are questioned in ways that sound like they are being blamed, and the process sometimes exacerbates the trauma they experience as a result.

This campaign was used to highlight the reality and difficulties that come with reporting and to validate that no matter how long ago an incident of violence took place, that there is still pain or trauma around it.

8. #NiUnaMenos

When and how did it start?

Ni Una Menos translated means “Not one more.” The hashtag started trending after Marcela Ojeda posted a tweet that highlighted the issue of femicide. According to the World Health Organization, femicide is the killing of women due to their gender. Usually perpetrated by men.

Ojeda long with other reporters covering femicide organized a March on June 3 in Buenos Aires. To demonstrate and protest against femicide. What was expected to be a small protest ended up being a march with over 200,000 women.  

What’s the purpose?

The purpose was to draw attention to the prevalence of femicide. It started in Argentina but the movement spread across the region in many South American and Latin American countries.  While there are laws against femicide in place in many places, there is difficulty in enforcing them.  So, this movement was a call for a change in culture, to enforce the laws, and a call to stop femicide.

9. #WhyIStayed

Who started it? What’s the focus?

Beverly Gooden started the hashtag #WhyIStayed in November 2014. It was recognized as a hashtag that made a difference in the world by TIME and CNN.

#WhyIStayed focuses on addressing the difficulties people have when trying to leave abusive relationships. It brings light to domestic violence.  

Why did it start?

Beverly Gooden tweeted the hashtag after the incident with Ray Rice, the NFL player, punched his fiance Janay Rice. There was a lot of controversy after that incident. Especially, about why people stay in domestic violence situations. The focus of the campaign was to highlight the many reasons it is difficult for people to leave, and the many reasons people chose to stay even if the situation is abusive.

Many people shared their stories using the hashtag. The stories shared many reasons people chose to stay in domestic violence situations including if they have children, for financial reasons, if they are afraid to leave among many others.

Domestic violence and intimate partner violence issues are very complex.

10. #BalanceTonPorc

When did it start? Why?

After the #MeToo movement, Sandra Muller used this hashtag in French. It took France by storm and sparked conversations on sexual harassment and abuse. An outpour of stories from French women about assault, harassment, and aggression came to light.

What’s the purpose?

The purpose of this hashtag was to call women to share their stories of assault and have their perpetrators be held accountable.

After it gained traction, Marlene Sciappa, France’s Junior Minister for Gender equality, pushed for legislation to address issues of sexual harassment. Even to charge a fine to people who engage in catcalling.

11. #AmINext

When did it start? Why?

On September 5th, 2014, Inuit Canadian Holly Jarrett used #AmINext to bring attention to the murder of Indigenous women in Canada. Holly Jarrett’s cousin, Loretta Saunders, was reported missing and found murdered by her roommate. Jarett wanted to raise awareness of this issue.

Jarrett ended up starting a Change.org petition, and she got over 300,00 signatures. Typically, issues like this aren’t talked about and that’s what Jarrett wanted to change. And, she wanted to prompt the government to make some changes.

What did it focus on? What’s the goal?

Jarrett wanted to push Prime Minister Harper to open a public inquiry into this issue of Indigenous women going missing and getting murdered. The following year, in 2015, Justin Trudeau announced a national inquiry into the issue. Since the inquiry, they found that over 4000 Indigenous women were missing or had been murdered. Now, many people are calling for the empowerment of Indigenous women.

Now that we’ve explored social media movements, we can see that some do lead to in-person protests, changes in legislation, mobilize people, and create solidarity among survivors of violence.

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