Tatiana Pechonochnik, director of the Kyiv-based NGO Human Rights Information Center, believes the issue of sexual violence in Ukraine has been bubbling below the surface for some time. She says a “critical mass” has been reached, requiring just one catalyzing Facebook post for the discussion to “explode” across social networking platforms. The hashtag #IamNotAfraidtoSay gives victims the strength and courage to speak out for the first time about their experiences of sexual violence, which many have kept hidden from close friends and families.
Svetlana A. on Facebook: “I was five years old. We were on the train to Briansk. […] There was a kind man sleeping on the other lower bunk bed. I woke up during the night because his hand was underneath my duvet and was trying pull off my pants. The next morning I told my mother. She didn’t believe me – she thought I’d made it up.”
The social media discussion, dubbed an online “flash mob” by the media, has made the sheer scale of sexual violence in Russia and Ukraine blatantly clear. It’s not that the rate of violence against women has increased, but rather people can no longer deny it exists, writes Bogdan Z. on his Facebook account. “We know because victims have decided to speak out. … It seems that this violence is closer to all of us than we imagined.”