Video: Telling our survival stories

// 13 March 2012

Tags: , , ,

Apologies for the poor quality audio, but this video is about the Twitter response to the Mumsnet #WeBelieveYou campaign.

[Apologies, also, that at present there is no transcript for the video. I hope to be able to get one soon, and will edit this post to include it when it’s done.] Thanks to @disabledmedic, we now have a transcript to the video, which follows.

[When you play the video you will see that screen grabs of text, urls or individual tweets will be shown. They are all read out in the voiceover, and so are in the transcript, but you may wish to play the video alongside to see this if you’re quite a visual person.]

[voiceover] Hi, this is Philippa Willitts from the F-word. This video [ed: and therefore transcript] may contain things that could be triggering so please be careful when you’re watching it.

Yesterday Mumsnet released a report which Laura wrote about on the blog, uhm, which was highlighting how many women who had filled in their questionnaire had been raped or sexually assaulted. This has led to quite incredible things on twitter – first of all the hashtag #webelieveyou which was associated with the Mumsnet campaign appeared. Now these three words are incredibly powerful and strong words to survivors of sexual violence. A lot of us are not believed, so being told that you’re believed is a very powerful message and an important one to get across.

Now at some point later on in the day yesterday another hashtag appeared which was #ididnotreport. Now this hashtag originated with @londonfeminist on twitter who was inspired by @andromedababe and @mmelindor. Now this hashtag was dozens, hundreds, thousands of people saying ‘I did not report my sexual assault’ ‘I did not report the harassment I experienced’ ‘I did not report my rape’ and saying why. And the speed and the vast number of tweets that were appearing with that hashtag were overwhelming.

And I sent a tweet from the F-word account saying ‘The hashtag #ididnotreport is devastating. It comes with a serious trigger warning, but if you are feeling strong enough, check it out.’ Now I actually wasn’t feeling strong enough, I was overwhelmed and really upset by a lot of what I was reading. I think it was the vast numbers of women who were all sharing their stories. Now that tweet (this one) has been retweeted over 400 times and is still being retweeted now. And there’s been as well as a lot of people posting on the hashtag about their experiences, there’s also been a lot of support offered. I wanted to find a way to acknowledge this mass outpouring because it’s an incredibly powerful thing that people are doing – that people are speaking out sometimes for the first time, sometimes for the hundredth time, but speaking out is really difficult, and anything that encourages people to be able to open up in that way is really important.

Messages like ‘no wonder #ididnotreport so heartbreakingly large it’s estimated 0.1-1% of sexual assaults result in conviction.’ ‘I do not have the courage to publicly share the assault #ididnotreport but I stand in solidarity with those reporting tonight. My heart is with you’ ‘devastating and enlightening twitter feed’ ‘the shocking thing about #ididnotreport is how easy it is to think of something to write for it’ ‘for anyone who tries to justify jokes about rape the #ididnotreport tweets should be a harsh dose of reality, this is a real, awful thing’ ‘I know we should encourage people to report but seriously I think the treatment of police etc can be as bad as the abuse itself’ ‘I want to share #ididnotreport with my teenage daughter so she knows always to report, to always tell, to know she can come to me’ ‘#ididnotreport because I knew the trauma would be worse by the legal system. I was so scared I didn’t even tell my mother for years’ ‘#ididnotreport because even my parents didn’t believe me’ ‘#ididnotreport the various grabbings, gropings and grindings we experienced as teenagers because they’re part of a night out’ ‘I’m saddened that #ididnotreport is needed, I’m glad it’s around. Realising one is not alone is the most powerful thing there is.’

And that’s so true – there is power in these messages, there is power in speaking out. That’s not to say you have to speak out, that’s not to say that you’re weak or not powerful if you don’t. You have to do it your own way, you have to – it’s the only way. But for those who did speak out last night, and today, and probably tomorrow, there is power in this.

Now if you want, I did two, I created two documents with these tweets. Now last night is this first one, you can find this at in this I got the latest 1500 tweets with this hashtag and the latest 1500 tweets last night took 6 minutes. There were 1500 tweets in 6 minutes with this hashtag! The second report I did is at That was the latest 1500 tweets this morning and that was about 6 hours worth of tweets on this hashtag. (Sorry about these ads, there’s nothing I can really do about them) The #webelieveyou hashtag is still going which I’m very glad about. The #ididnotreport tag is still going and the #ididreport tag is still going.

I’m really proud of every woman who’s spoken out – every person who’s speaking out, it’s not just women. There’s power in our words. One of my favourite quotes: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes”. Check out those hashtags on twitter if that’s something you feel safe doing, and thank you to everybody who’s taken part and to Mumsnet for starting this conversation.


Comments From You

Shadow // Posted 13 March 2012 at 11:22 pm

Actually it is women and girls who are the ones reporting a male/males has/have subjected them to sexual violence. It is vital we recognise it is not ‘people’ who are being subjected to systemic male sexual violence – it is women and girls.

But perhaps naming the victims as women and girls means we are indeed stating male sexual violence against women happens on a massive scale and is never just another so-called ‘isolated incident’ committed by that mythical deviant monster with horns on his head.

Male sexual violence against women and girls is endemic and it happens because our male supremacist system works very, very hard to deny male accountability and switch attention away from the innumerable male perpetrators to the female victims. Feminists know exactly how this operates and why males believe they must never be held accountable for condoning/committing male sexual violence against women. It is not enough for women and girls to speak out – rather we must not only recognise the courage of these women and girls but also act on their behalf because we demand an end to endemic male violence against women and girls. This will not happen until we recognise precisely how our male supremacist system operates to maintain men’s pseudo right to dominate and control women’s and girls’ lives. The focus must be on male accountability and why so many male perpetrators are not prosecuted and even convicted. Shame resides with the men who commit violence against women and also with the men who condone/refuse to hold those male perpetrators accountable for their crimes committed against women and girls. We know the threat of male violence against women and girls is the most effective method men employ to maintain their pseudo right to dominate and control all women and girls.

But instead we have denial after denial after denial because men and rape apologists will not accept male violence against women is a very effective tool to maintain male domination and male control over every aspect of women’s and girls’ lives.

Speaking out against male violence against women and girls will not earn women any cookies from the menz but if we do not speak out we effectively condone and justify men’s pseudo sex right to any female. It has never been easy telling men they are accountable but then eliminating male supremacist system won’t happen until such time as women and girls realise their experiences of male sexual violence are not ‘isolated incidents’ but are a pattern of male behaviour which is condoned and justified by our male supremacist system.

After all if default human is male this means women and girls are not human so therefore males cannot commit any crime against a non-human being can they?

Laura // Posted 14 March 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thanks for pulling this together, Pippa. So powerful – and yet so sad – to see so many women speaking up.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 14 March 2012 at 4:32 pm


While I agree that the vast amount of violence against women and girls by men is at epidemic proportions, the reason I clarified that it wasn’t just women, it was people, was that it felt profoundly disrespectful to ignore the men who had opened up as well as the women.

anywavewilldo // Posted 14 March 2012 at 5:46 pm

WHY WHY WHY is is mandated that ‘thou shalt people the conversation’ ? #ididnotreport was a stomach-churning, gutsy, bloody outpouring of grief. It was phenomenal in the truest sense.

One of my tweets was “we are sexually abused *because* we are women and *despite* we are men”(1) – I think it’s profoundly disrespectful to un-notice the fact that #ididnotreport was *about* women and girls even if men also contributed.

(1) and *because* we are trans* [&or] women and girls. Cis men are default-humans and are not targeted with sexual violence because of their gender. This is shown by how sexual violence is used to remove a targeted cis-man of his humanhood.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 14 March 2012 at 6:19 pm

As I said above, it would have been wrong to erase the experiences of the men who spoke out. This issue affects women in astoundingly higher numbers than men, but when I’m looking at a list of tweets as I talk, and a man’s face is looking back at me talking about something that destroyed him, turning away from that for the sake of numbers felt inhumane.

Holly Combe // Posted 14 March 2012 at 6:31 pm

@anywavewilldo. You make a valid point about wider tendencies to constantly dilute very real examples of gendered violence. However, to be fair, this was just one acknowledgement from Pippa, who wrote a whole post very clearly demonstrating that she is committed to highlighting the problem in the manner you’re talking about. Does she really deserve to be made an example of to make your point?

I also think the reference was perfectly reasonable, seeing as sexual violence doesn’t just affect women (as you indicate yourself). I don’t think the fact that sexual violence against men is often used in a deeply patriarchal and misogynistic manner changes that.

Claire Donnelly // Posted 15 March 2012 at 12:01 pm

I think the whole thing is wonderful in many ways (although extremely depressing in others), and I hope that it will be useful both in raising awareness to those who are not aware already at the level of unreported violence, and in helping survivors to be heard and supported.

On a personal level I found it difficult- avoiding triggering stuff became impossible and going on Twitter felt like being under a giant hailstorm. Also I felt I couldn’t share any of my experiences because of followers I have on Twitter- relatives who don’t know, relatives of my partner who don’t know, work colleagues etc etc. Saying it is one thing but I wasn’t up for a discussion.

So what am I saying here? Well, basically that even as the massive numbers of #ididnotreportit and #ididreportit tweets descended, there are *even more* of us out there who didn’t or couldn’t share for whatever reason.

I might be stating the obvious there, but I felt the need to say it…

Philippa Willitts // Posted 15 March 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks Claire. I actually don’t think you’re stating the obvious. For the huge number who spoke out, and for those who were surprised at how many of their friends and strangers spoke out, there were undoubtedly many who still couldn’t, for whatever reason.

The first day I also had to avoid twitter, it was too much. The second day I braced myself and was able to read quite a lot. I always vary on these things!

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