Something very powerful and breathtaking is happening right now on Facebook. It started with a post by Nastya Melnichenko under the hashtag #яНеБоюсьСказати (#янебоюсьсказать, #iamnotafraidtospeak).
She described several episodes of physical abuse and sexual assaults she went through, and the reaction of her relatives and friends. Nastya wrote that she was brave enough to talk about what happened and encouraged others to share their stories.
Suddenly my Facebook feed was full of morbid memories of my friends, both female and male. Brief, simply written stories, straight facts with almost no reflection and analysis: he said he wanted to kiss me; he asked if I saw any porn; he grabbed my tits; he squeezed my genitals under the skirt; he asked not to tell my parents; he slapped me hard and pushed me against the wall…
Some stories started with words “I am 4-, 5-years old, my father’s friend asked if there was anyone else in the house”. Most people remembered incidents that happened in their teenage years. My close friends, followers, people I know briefly but deeply respect, beautiful women, high profile business achievers, trendy boys, bright, experienced, wit and successful people came forward with their stories of assault. Swirling blend of tragedy, irony, shame, initiative and giving up hit me hard — and I am not very easy to be shaken, I met life’s sharp edges before. Thousands of episodes of sexual abuse. Hundreds of flashbacks involving strangers, co-workers, boyfriends, relatives, family friends, bosses, tutors, doctors. And mistrust, denial, understatement: you must have misinterpreted it, sweetie; he didn’t mean it; it was just a joke — well, not a good one, but uncle Xander would never hurt you — or an awkward silence, like nothing ever happened at all.
It’s both the content and the volume that struck me, taking my breath away while my eyes followed short sentences. And I know there’s more, much more. I feel the unspoken words; they burn my skin. I admire the pure bravery and candidness of those who dared to tell, I see others cheer my friends up and express support — and it’s beautiful, it’s powerful, it’s even more important than we can imagine.
But I think of those who dropped their turn and didn't utter a word. They are bogged down with shame, guilt, doubt, rationalization, they deal with it under the thick cover of the fear of being rejected, being judged, accused in some kind of wrong-doing, wrong-thinking, misbehave and teasing. I find myself saying again and again: no, it’s not your fault; no, it’s not ok; no, nothing is wrong with you; no, you shouldn’t just leave it; no, the world won’t turn its back on you. It happened to most of us, and we are not afraid to speak — not because we’ve been seeking attention. Because it’s time for the world to hear, acknowledge and fix it. When the matter is deep, dark and layered, every voice is a huge step forward. It could be yours."