“We don’t need to make excuses. We’re not to blame, those who violate us are ALWAYS to blame. I am not afraid to speak out. And I do not feel guilty,” she wrote, using the hashtag #Iamnotscaredtospeak (#яНеБоюсьСказати in Ukrainian; #яНеБоюсьСказать in Russian).
Her post was shared hundreds of times and received hundreds of comments, many of them from other women sharing their stories, some abusive. Gradually, other women started sharing their own stories using the same hashtag, and then the wave spread to the Russian internet. Many women said it was the first time they had ever spoken about the incidents.
It is a new departure for Russia and Ukraine, where domestic violence and sexual abuse are often taboo topics, or treated as part of life. Taken together, the stories weave a disturbing tapestry of violence, intimidation and abuse, from uncomfortable situations and verbal insults to physical assaults and rape.