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Women Are Using The Hashtag #IamNotAfraidtoSayIt To Share Stories Of Sexual Abuse

"Do men ever wonder what it is like to grow up in an atmosphere where you are treated like meat?"

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Anastasiya Melnychenko is the head of a Ukrainian human rights organization called Studena. Earlier this week, she said she came across a Facebook post from a man that described a woman he said he met in a park — she had been raped.

Melnychenko said the man’s Facebook post concluded that the woman “shouldn’t have been hanging around alone at night.” Outraged, she started a hashtag #‎яНеБоюсьСказати or #IamNotAfraidtoSayIt.

Facebook: nastya.melnychenko

"... we do not have to make excuses. We are not to blame, a rapist is always to blame. I'm not afraid to talk. And I don’t feel guilty.

Do men ever wonder what it is like to grow up in an atmosphere where you are treated like meat? You didn’t do anything, but everyone feels entitled to fuck you and dispose your body.

I know they are unlikely to understand it. I have nothing at all to explain, but, unfortunately, they constitute a whole half of humanity. Therefore, for us, the women, it is important to talk about our experiences. It is important to make it visible. Please speak..."

Now, Ukrainian and Russian women are using the hashtag to share their stories of street harassment, sexual harassment in the work place, and sexual abuse.

Facebook: anastasiiaspirina

"On November 21, 2015, my apartment and I looked like this [referring to the photos of her apartment she posted on Facebook]. When our guests left, my husband and I tried to talk and figure things out. During our conversation, he grabbed me by my hands, dragged me across the apartment half-naked and tried to throw me out of the apartment. Then he shoved a knife into the door, and I feared that he'd stab me next. I ran away from the war in Luhansk, but I could still feel it in Kiev. Who do I fight for justice with, who do I march for my freedom with? On August 2, 2016, I’ll get my divorce papers at 12:00 p.m. at Puracheva street, 17.

I cry for humanity, honesty, understanding and friendship."

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Melnychenko’s initial post has been shared hundreds of times and the hashtag has since gone viral, both in Ukraine and Russia. Conversations about sexual abuse are still relatively uncommon in these countries — especially Russia, which is deeply rooted in patriarchy — so, the response online to Melnychenko's post almost feels like a revolutionary moment, and many have taken note.

Facebook: JuliaPoluninaBut

"At the age of 5 or 6, I found out that my cousin is a pedophile. I realized this when he joined the army. That's when my childhood ended. He regularly started showing his penis. He always tried to make me hold it, while pressing me into the corner.

When you’re 6 and he’s 18, it’s hard to run away. It’s hard to understand that the man who is supposed to protect you from everything bad is doing something like this to you. It is hard to understand why he’s putting his hands in your underwear, why he is always undressing you. And most importantly, it’s hard to figure out where to run from all of this. And he tells you that it’s ok, it’s normal, and that it prepares me for my future and I have to remain quiet about all of this.

I don’t want to get into the details about his favorite ways of entertaining himself, but it lasted for 13 years, until I finally learned to fight back. He tried to rape me many times, but I always managed to fight back ...

... What I regret the most is that I didn't tell my mother soon enough. I regret that I didn’t go to the police when I understood what he was doing is not normal. I regret that I was too ashamed to do it and I was too afraid to make hurt my relatives and those close to me."

Facebook: AAVeduta

"When I was 18, I was working as an assistant to some shady man my mom knew. I was young, I needed money and so on. The man once held a conference on government relations — businessmen were supposed to meet members of the government. Well, the businessmen certainly didn’t attend. From the government side, there was Rogachev (rest in peace) — Russian ambassador to China (1992-2005) but he had already retired and was working in the upper house of the parliament. My boss told me to go and give the man his invitation. It was February — I didn’t even want to take my jacket off. But I guess the 75-year old man saw something that appealed to him. By that time, little girl Anna knew that she should’t trust grown men. But I didn't think that something like that could happen in the upper house of the parliament. I was wrong. Little girl Anna was pressed to the wall, while the old man kissed her, while trying to get his hands inside five layers of clothing. This story could end differently, but his [secretary] Lenochka knocked on the door — someone important came, someone who was not expected. So, I was free.

I complained to my boss later, but his only response was: "Someone touched your knees, what's the big deal! Such a serious man paid attention to you!" I disagreed with him, but he didn't care. The only thing we ended up agreeing upon was that I won’t be dealing with Rogachev again."

But it’s not just women who are using the hashtag.

Facebook: vasilyesmanov

"Everything that has swallowed our newsfeeds in last couple of days — it’s a complex problem where every part of it is tied to something else. Social norms, patriarchy in our society, models of social behaviors for men and women which we got used to, manipulation from both genders, mental illness, self-exploitation, fear and insecurity, basic human stupidity and carelessness and lack of empathy and compassion from one to another.

I hope we suddenly woke up and found ourselves in our own apartment, which has been totally covered in shit for years. And it is not clear where to start and what to do. But at least we now see the dirt and do not want to live in it anymore."

Facebook: tatyana.nikonova

"Several years ago, a guy was jailed 30 years after he did to me … I don’t even remember what exactly he did. A lot of people knew all these years, but no one did anything until he was caught by accident doing this with a small boy. When I was 9, I ran into an exhibitionist [someone who exposes private parts in public]. I was too ashamed to tell my parents. When I was 11, a boy ran to me and put his hand under my skirt and squeezed his palm in between my legs. At school, such things were called "squeezing." All the girls were afraid. We went to the bathroom in groups. And to the wardrobe, too. But sometimes a girl could get "squeezed" during the break in front of everyone, and then everybody laughed…

At 19, I was raped when I was on a date, in his car. I was a virgin. I resisted, but he put up his fist. I stopped resisting. Then I stopped answering his calls. For a long time he didn’t even understand why ...

At 20, I got really drunk on New Year’s (before that my drinking experience was a couple of shots, so I didn’t know when to stop). I don’t know how, but I ended up in an apartment with seven guys. They gave me vodka to drink straight from the bottle, and when one of them was leaving the room I threw up and giggled thinking how the owner of the apartment will be pissed. They threw me away from the apartment naked and then threw my clothes on top of me. Neighbors came out of their homes after hearing all the noise. I couldn’t even remember the faces of those guys. Next summer, I left the city after a group of guys came to me on the street saying if it’s true that I "give to everyone."

In Moscow, a taxi driver drove me to the yard, pulled his dick out and suggested I suck it instead of paying. Since then, I always started taking the rear seat in taxis. Another driver once took me behind some garages and tried to climb to the rear seat. I kicked him with my heels…

Activists with the Campaign Against Discrimination applauded the hashtag, saying, “speaking about discrimination, injustice, violence is the first step toward change.”

Facebook: permalink.php

"‪#‎iamnotafraidtospeak‬

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."

Facebook: maria.baronova

"This is "normal" women’s life. You asked for it yourself, you came yourselves, you always escaped. And when it’s something done by your own man, it doesn’t even count as violence, right? It’s painful. So what? Everyone is having their own hardships. And bruises you have are from many things, not only violence...

I was 9 or 10, can’t remember exactly. Long way from puberty for sure. I’m studying physics at Institute of Civic Aviation. It’s March 8th and we’re taking our exams. Basically, on one hand grown-up people are still working with students and on the other hand, they are getting ready to celebrate. There is a man called Sasha among them. He’s over 40. Sasha is good and always playing on computer with me, shows me experiments in the lab, telling me about quarks and helping solve problems from Quant magazine...

I’m playing in the lab… and suddenly uncle Sasha comes in and places me on his knees. I’m confused and try to get away. But he insists, so I don’t want to upset him and stay where I am. Then he writes a number on a piece of paper and says "You gonna call me when no one is home, alright? We gonna talk and no one will know." I’m get confused even more. I’m not really close to my relatives, I’m usually on my own. Why does he need this, why does a grown person want to talk to me over the phone? Grown-ups don’t talk to children. And then he says real quietly, "Will you kiss me? Just one time." There were TWO MORE MEN IN THE ROOM. But I thought what would be wrong with kissing uncle Sasha in the cheek. I didn’t know at all that "kissing" meant something different. I didn’t know that at all. So, he starts doing something with my mouth and grabs my hand and that is how I came to know that men have "it" in different states. I was ashamed, I didn't understand how this could happen and what he was doing. I don’t even know where kids come from yet. I get down fast and sit near him. And he complains that I’m behaving badly and he is going to tell my mom.

I repeat, there were two other people behind a thin wall and they didn't seem bothered by all these noises. I left the room and never came back. He tried to follow me several times, told me that "I will like it." I was endlessly ashamed and afraid that that someone would find out.

I was ashamed for many years. I’m still ashamed. But I read story after story and understood that I need to tell mine. This man didn't look like a pedophile in someone’s perception. He had wife and kids. But if he did this to me, he may have done it to others as well. And I still looked far from someone who had reached puberty."

Contact Victor Stepanov at victor.stepanov@buzzfeed.com.

Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Ryan Broderick at ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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