#WhyIDidn’tReport and the Power of Social Media in Abuse Allegations

GABY IORI

TW: sexual assault

At the end of September, when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at a high school party, victims of assault everywhere rallied behind her. Hashtags flooded Twitter, much like last year’s, and continuously ongoing, #MeToo social media phenomenon. This time around, however, victims were sharing the hashtags #WhyIDidn’tReport and #BelieveVictims, which detailed stories of why assault victims did not report their abuse when it first happened.

“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. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!” was President Trump’s statement on Twitter regarding Dr. Ford’s accusations. Social media reacted accordingly with tweets, Facebook posts and articles urging people to believe women and other sexual assault victims and to not discredit accusations that come years after the assault occurred.

Tweets using the hashtag #WhyIDidn’tReport emphasize the emotional vulnerability associated with reporting abuse. Feelings of shame, guilt, and the fear of not being believed were common themes in the posts. Twitter users pointed out while sharing their stories one of the prevailing subjects was the idea that the victim was to blame for the abuse.

Despite the unnerving reactions of people in positions of power, social media has played an instrumental role in understanding the nature of unifying capabilities regarding hashtags like #MeToo, #WhyIDidn’tReport and #BelieveSurvivors. Not only does it provide a platform for many people to share their stories in their own words and be believed, but it also allows for the spread of awareness to people who may not have been in tune to the problems otherwise.

Caitlyn Leong, a twenty-year-old victim of sexual assault, told the New York Times that “social media movements like this are potentially life-changing because you see hundreds of thousands of other people sharing their stories, and you don’t feel like you’re the only person this has happened to…you don’t feel like it’s you in this vacuum where awful things happened.”

The hashtags mentioned above are just a few examples of social media being used as a crusade for change. On any given day, the “Twittersphere” can change and adapt according to the day’s events. It is disappointing that these social media movements have to exist at all, but as long as their presence is around there will be a platform to educate the public and to share similar accounts with people who have had comparable experiences.

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