the ‘i did not report’ hashtag: stories of unreported sexual assault
When I first heard about the ‘I did not report’ hashtag. I was blown away with the ingeniousness of the idea. How many of us have been groped against our will? How many of us have been harassed or threatened in the street simply because we happen to have a vagina? How many of us have had offensive slurs thrown at us out of car windows by men who would kill anyone if they insulted their mother or sister, conveniently forgetting that we too are mothers and sisters and daughters? I know I have, and so has every single one of my female friends. Now there is a twitter hashtag that people can use to openly discuss assaults and harassment that they did not report. And, more importantly, they know that on this forum they will be believed.
After talking to the males in my life about it, I realise that we live in such different worlds. They were shocked that this happened, often on a weekly basis. It’s such a common-place occurrence that they don’t see it or notice it happening everywhere around them. It is completely ingrained in our society, to the point that even the females getting harassed don’t think anything of it. That’s not to say that men don’t get harassed or sexually assaulted as well, and there have been quite a few hashtags from men who did not report, but it is predominantly something that happens to women.
I have had people force their hand up my skirt in nightclubs, I was threatened with being pushed down the stairs because I would not give someone my number, and once on the bus had two men loudly talk about how they were going to rape me until the bus driver told me I had to get off because he would not be able to help me if they did try anything. And I never once considered reporting these incidents. Because that would be an overreaction, wouldn’t it? I mean, it’s a compliment, right? At least that’s what everyone is conditioned to believe. Women are simply sex-objects after all, or should want to be seen that way, so we should be flattered when someone says we’re fuckable to th male eye.
I turned to the twitter hashtag with interest, to see how many incidents were not being reported. What I found shocked me. The majority of them weren’t incidents that I have described, though there was plenty of that too. The majority of people using the hashtag had not reported serious assault. One recurring theme for this was because of the treatment both women and men receive from law officials when they do report. Another is a fear of not being believed, or of being seen as overreacting. Because where do we draw the line? We are told to swallow having our breasts, bottoms or genitals fondled against our will in public because it’s a compliment, or it’s a part of life. That’s just what happens. Move on. So how can women believe that their accounts of serious assault won’t be dealt with in the same way?
When you treat women as something to be whistled at, threatened or groped, is it any wonder that the rape statistics are so high, and the level of reporting so low? Because once society starts looking past hands up the skirt, it is easy for society to look past everything else. Men are basically given permission to treat women like objects and to ignore ‘no’; obviously that attitude, the one being fostered and reinforced every day, is going to have dire consequences.
None of the behaviour, whether it be low-level harassment or serious assault, is acceptable. And, as the London Feminist points out (the group who pioneered ‘I did not report’), it is all illegal.
The ‘i did not report’ hashtag is the first step in a movement against this kind of behaviour, though there is still a long way to go.
For the first time it seems, we are getting our voices heard, we are saying that both low-level harassment and serious assault are not okay, and we are letting people know that they will be believed.
Let’s hope that this attitude permeates the rest of society, and soon.
(Image credit: 1.)