#WhyDidntIReport Because Anonymous Voices Are Equally Loud Too
The October of 2017 saw one of the biggest movements on social media as hashtag #MeToo gained momentum globally. While it was heartening to see so many people share their stories, there were many of those who remained anonymous. And it is encouraging to see platforms which give space to those who are not comfortable in speaking up about sexual misconduct or violence.
Last year, different Subways in New York City saw a template which said #WhyIDidntReport and that initiated a conversation about the various reasons why people do not report their sexual assault. The initiative taken by two artists from NYC prompted many people to participate without the pressure of speaking publicly.
Habib Feminist Collective, a group of intersectional feminists have also started an online initiative #WhyDidntIReport to help people open up about their experiences with regards to traumatic experiences. The campaign isn’t limited to just university students rather it is an open call to whoever wants to share their story by reaching out to them via an email.
Their Instagram page shares the reasons why people who were harassed or assaulted did not report the incident to anyone due to various reasons. The documentation of those reasons is perhaps important because it may help in shifting the blame from the survivor to the perpetrator.
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Tw: mention of se/ual assa/lt & possession of weapons for threatening . . . . . "He was close to our family and he carried a blade with him. He would show me the blade every time I would threaten him with telling someone. But that is not why I stayed quite. I stayed quite because I have a little sister who was four back then and I was nine. He said that he would come after my sister next if I told anyone." #whyikeptquiet #whydidntireport #metoo #timesup •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• You can send us your reasons via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or inbox us on Facebook. EVERYTHING will be dealt with confidentiality and no details will be disclosed about the identity of the survivor, even if they personally consent to it.
The team behind the collective told that there were many submissions initially and that they were hoping for other institutions to carry it forward, and because their social media account was new, the visibility got affected.
“There were some people who said they wanted to share their story but didn’t do it maybe it was because of it being extremely mentally taxing to go through the trauma repeatedly,” said Rida Khan of Habib Feminist Collective.
Given that the purpose of the movement is to provide a safe space to those who aren’t comfortable in going public, Khan feels that calling out the abuser can also trigger trauma while also being threatening for the survivor
“In our experience with the campaign, no one asked us to keep it non-anonymous and I think that’s great because all we wanted to do was create awareness. We’ve had enough of the victim blaming, maybe this was one way to make people hear the survivor’s end of the story,” she said.
Another member Umama Ishtiaq said that anonymity also addresses the stigma attached to the stories with regards to the victim abuse in the country: “We can’t guarantee the sort of response these stories will get, will they be met with empathy or backlash? But we can guarantee protection from trolls, if there are any. We would not want our contributors to be dragged over the internet or shamed for telling their stories. Once people know who they are, there is a possibility that they might even go to personal profiles to send hate.”
Ishtiaq felt that getting access to someone’s story meant a lot of responsibility on the team’s shoulders and they would not want to bring more abuse to anyone: “The stigma, the shame attached to being a victim of abuse is so intense in Pakistan that it can shatter one’s self esteem. While this campaign aims to do the opposite, to promote the concept of ‘you are not your abuse’ and most importantly ‘you are not alone’. The fact that they trusted us enough to share their cases with us means we have a responsibility towards them. We cannot bring more hurt and emotional abuse their way. We want to help in any way that we can and one way to do so is this campaign being anonymous.”
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Tw: S*xual Har*ssment . . . . . "I didn't report because he was my best friend and I couldn't believe he did that to me. I blamed myself for being so close to him. He was also seen as a really nice guy who helped everyone so I thought no one would believe me." . #WhyDidntIReport #whyikeptquiet #timesup ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• You can send us your reasons via email: email@example.com or inbox us on Facebook. EVERYTHING will be dealt with confidentiality and no details will be disclosed about the identity of the survivor, even if they personally consent to it.
Unfortunately, while these initiatives are important, the response by the audience can vary greatly and the campaign can also become a recipient of vitriol. However, the campaign has received a positive response from the online community, which is also surprising for the team because they believe that almost all feminist causes receive some backlash in the country.
“We have also noticed how the movement is being praised for responding to the backlash that the #MeToo movement got. The survivors who came out with their stories under the #MeToo movement were met with questions like: why now? What took you so long? Why didn’t you tell someone? The why didn’t I report movement hopes to answer these questions,” said another member Tasbiha Asim.
While these campaigns are extremely important, it’s equally necessary to be considerate about the people behind them because it can be taxing to read through the stories as well.
Khan explained that almost all of them had one thing in common that the survivors doubted themselves and they thought if they did report, no one would believe them.
“There were some terrifying stories and while it did take a toll on our mental health, we knew we had to keep going. The campaign proved to be a tool for survivors to get some closure. While reporting their abuser might seem impossible to them, having a space where they can talk about the reasons without alerting their abuser provided them with some comfort. We see this campaign as a gateway to healing, spreading awareness and putting an end to victim blaming,” she said.
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Trigger warning: mention of ass/ult, nonconsensual s/x . . . . . . So basically, we were dating for some time and I was genuinely in love with him. So obviously, I never saw his toxic traits as "toxic" and I never understood what he was doing and why he did it. All I know is I always had an excuse for his abusive behaviour. It is now, months after therapy I see everything for what it is. He would use my body for his needs, EVEN THOUGH I KEPT SAYING that I DO NOT consent to this but he kept forcing himself on me. Every time I would confront him with this, he'd apologise and promise to not do it again but of course he did it again. It got to a point where I was mentally exhausted with his behaviour and I just let him do it, JUST SO he would let me go. If I didn't let him, he'd hold onto me so tight it'd hurt me. I just wanted him to let me go, I didn't want any of the physical activities. but I didn't report any of this because I'm still confused if this is an attempt at rape? Or am I to be blamed for something here? I have contemplated many times about what I "could" have done to stop it, but it all comes back to the point where he just wouldn't let go till he was "done". I was always, never left with an option but to submit.. and I really don't know how to face the courts with this. The thought of "tum thi hi ku uske sath?!" "Akele jane ko kis ne kaha tha" haunts me everyday and I don't have the strength to hear that I lost a case where my body was used against my will because I don't have enough proof that whether I ever said "NO" clearly or not. #whydidntireport #whyikeptquiet #metoo #timesup ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• You can send us your reasons via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or inbox us on Facebook. EVERYTHING will be dealt with confidentiality and no details will be disclosed about the identity of the survivor, even if they personally consent to it.
The team also aims to take the campaign further by giving it coverage by tying it with different events happening at their university.
“We plan on making ourselves visible through either stalls or the distribution of badges, posters, pamphlets etc,” said Fatima Durrani.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to talk about sexual abuse and harassment at all levels because while the element of shame is attached to abuse, oppressed genders do not speak about it because they are conditioned to believe that nobody will trust their story, and the cis-het males also shrug it off owing to toxic masculinity.
In either of the cases, speaking up breaks the taboo surrounding these topics and conversations about abuse would not only shift the burden of proof onto the perpetrator instead of the victim but may also ensure that the cycle of abuse breaks, once and for all.