The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport has gone viral and adds a new – and no less shocking – chapter to the #MeToo movement. Survivors of sexual abuse have been using the hashtag to break the silence and speak up about their experiences.
Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a US Supreme Court justice marks the beginning of the rise of #WhyIDidntReport. The Supreme Court represents one of the highest and most influential offices in the country. In the eyes of the Democrats, Kavanaugh, with his extreme conservative views, is seen as a hugely controversial nominee. Even before his nomination in July, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, accused the 53-year-old judge of attempted rape at a house party in the early 1980s. Subsequently, two further women have since come forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
#WhyIDidntReport: a tweet by Donald Trump
During the Senate judiciary hearing, Kavanaugh furiously denied all allegations of sexual abuse, and soon found vocal support from the US president. Indeed, Donald Trump tweeted: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
With these words, the president sought to undermine the credibility of Kavanaugh’s accuser. His message is simple: victims of sexual assault would always report the crimes they’ve been subjected to. In other words: if there’s no report, there’s no victim, and therefore no crime. Trump, then, fails to acknowledge the possibility that powerful feelings of shame and fear can, and often do, prevent victims of sexual violence from speaking publicly about their experiences. His tweet ignores the many real sufferings and furthermore seems to set a time limit beyond which resulting traumas cannot be discussed.
From hashtag to movement
The response to Trump’s tweet was immediate and overwhelming: using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, women shared moving stories on Twitter that described the personal reasons why they did not report their experiences of sexual abuse to the police. A number of celebrities have also spoken out, many of whom had remained silent during the #MeToo debate. #WhyIDidntReport has now condensed into a discussion involving the voices of tens of thousands of women. Meanwhile, over 100,000 people worldwide have now responded to Trump’s tweet. Among them was actress Alyssa Milano, one of the key voices of #MeToo. While Lili Reinhart, star of the Netflix series Riverdale, has taken the opportunity to discuss the issue with millennials across her social media channels. And so a hashtag became a movement and an engine for social change.
If you need to talk to someone about sexual abuse or violence or require help, you can call these free and anonymous helplines.
Germany 0800 22 55 530
US 800 656 HOPE (4673)
UK 0808 802 9999