THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “It’s time to speak out and I think this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the sexual abuse I faced,” writes a 20-year-old student on Facebook. This is one among the statements made by tens of thousands of women who took to social media to express their solidarity with the #metoo campaign which is going viral . And the outpourings have been strong, sentimental and angry. Twenty-eight-year-old Neelima Parvathi, a professional from Kottayam, who came out strongly about incidents of abuse, had taken to Facebook the other day to write about the experience she faced in the past.
‘Remembering the person who made me hold his penis when I was just around 10. Remembering the person who said he wanted to touch my breasts when I was just 15. Remembering the person who whispered “I am going to f..k you” when I was just around 17. Remembering all the sleepless nights that followed. Remembering with disgust.
Neelima says, “I kept on seeing a lot of friends, peers and acquaintances, sharing the #metoo on social media to express they were survivors of sexual abuse. I couldn’t restrain the pain I had gone through and decided to come out strongly. Though there was support from many corners, it hurt to see some who are close to me trying to silence my attempts to speak out. I had someone ask me why I was posting these incidents now when it had occurred many years ago. This woke me up to the stunning reality of our society,” she said.
Neelima also has a few words to say against those who have started a #Notallmen campaign on social media. “It shows the lack of sensitivity and egoistic mentality possessed by these men. What should have been seen as a good cause, has taken a different meaning altogether, and I think such negative campaigns and thought processes should not be supported,” she added.
Sajitha Madathil, theatre artist and actor, says the campaign is proving extremely effective as it is helping women express what they feel about sexual abuse. “Also, the fact that every woman I know on social media is responding shows that they, irrespective of their profession and situation, have faced some sort of abuse,” she said. And so reads Sajitha’s Facebook post which she shared from a friend’s timeline:
‘Me too. I too was sexually harassed by known and unknown men, as an adolescent and adult. There are many many more men, men holding high positions, talented men, super-smart men, men who are our friends, relatives and acquaintances. And you know what, sexual abuse is not inevitable, nor accidental; it is always intentional and deliberate. AND IT CAN BE STOPPED’”.
She says the kind of negative comments abusing her character that appeared under her post shows the regressiveness in the mindset of people in the society.
Popular actors Parvathy and Rima Kallingal, among other celebrities, also expressed solidarity to the campaign. Another woman pointed out that she has faced abuse at the hands of men as well as women. “I am part of the #me too campaign, because we live in a country where these cases are handled callously,” she said.
While most of the campaign has been to support women, quite a number of men have also joined stating that men and boys are also abused and their issues need to be discussed too.
Gopinath Parayil, founder of Blue Yonder, a responsible tourism company in Kochi, wrote on his timeline, “If all of the people who have ever been sexually harassed, or assaulted, wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a more accurate sense of the magnitude of how large this problem really is. Boys are abused as well.”
However, there are others who do not find the campaign justifiable.
“People really don’t have a sense of the magnitude of the problem? You need women and other abused people to share their trauma in two quick words so that the world at large will open its eyes?... Maybe abusers should be writing ‘me too’ all over Facebook. Maybe you needn’t put the burden of the realisation/acceptance/action regarding sexual assault back on to the victims...This is yet another flavour of the same misogyfeminism I keep talking about,” writes Priya George, an English language trainer.