The number of Israelis contacting sexual violence hotlines has dramatically increased following a recent campaign that saw social media users around the world detail why they didn’t complain immediately after they were assaulted.
According to figures released Wednesday by The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) and carried by Hebrew-language media, there has been an increase of more than 50 percent since the #WhyIDidntReport campaign began on September 21.
The increase was even more pronounced among men, with the number of calls more than doubling compared to the average rate.
The campaign began when US President Donald Trump demanded to know why the sexual assault accuser of his then-nominee for the Supreme Court did not come forward sooner, seeking to cast doubt over her claims.
But thousands of women immediately flooded the internet to tell the stories of trauma, under a viral hashtag: #WhyIDidntReport.
Because I was 18
I was scared
I didn’t think I’d be believed
I didn’t know where to go
I knew my assailant
I couldn’t break my parents’ hearts
I didn’t want to be defined by someone else’s violent criminal act#WhyIDidntReport
— Gretchen Whitmer (@gretchenwhitmer) September 22, 2018
That campaign gained traction in Israel, too, under an equivalent Hebrew handle meaning “I didn’t complain.”
Many women who contacted the Israeli hotlines said they were triggered by the sudden emergence of public testimonies of sexual violence that reminded them of their own stories.
ARCCI executive director Orit Sulitzeanu said in the statement that the phenomenon was normal and common, adding that “in such moments, the statistics which are all-too familiar to us can be attached to faces.”
“But it is important to remember that many carry the wounds with them all the time, even when the subject isn’t making headlines, and it is our duty as a society to grant them relief and recognition,” she added.
“Our help centers are available to victims at any time, and we invite anyone wanting to talk or weighing their next steps to contact us — the hotline numbers are 1202 for women and 1203 for men.”
The ARCCI also reported that the profiles of men contacting has become more diverse, with older men calling about incidents that happened in their past.
There was a 140% increase in the number of people who reached out for help via an online chat service operated by the organization and used primarily by people aged 17-30, the statement said
Last month, after days of relative restraint following Christine Blasey Ford’s public US Senate testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Trump — himself the subject of groping and other sexual harassment allegations by multiple women — launched an all-out attack on Ford’s credibility.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed,” he tweeted on September 21.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
But the president’s skepticism unleashed a fresh wave of social media outrage, echoing that of last year’s #MeToo movement.
A phrase of solidarity through empathy first used by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, #MeToo spread virally as a hashtag when a flood of allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein forced a global reckoning on sexual misconduct in the workplace and beyond.
This time, it was solidarity through attempted education, as sexual assault survivors furiously hit back at Trump and Ford’s other detractors with the reasons why they, like Ford, kept their trauma to themselves for so long.
Trump said Saturday he was “100 %” certain Kavanaugh was innocent.
Within the #WhyIDidntReport tweets, themes jumped out: fears of not being believed, or of repercussions for speaking out; feelings of shame or embarrassment.
And for all the stories shared, there were no doubt countless others still left untold.
AFP contributed to this report.