A new social media initiative against the silence around sexual abuse has been taking off in Iceland, providing a simple but effective visualisation of how pervasive the problem is.
The initiative has its roots in an unlikely source: the Facebook group Beauty Tips, a women’s only group normally dedicated to advice on health and cosmetics. The campaign started from a single post of a woman asking the group if any of them had ever experienced sexual abuse. Hundreds of women spoke up, many of them breaking their silence for the first time from the show of support.
Soon, the campaign spread to Twitter, using the hashtags #outloud, #konurtala (“women speak”) and #þöggun (“silenced”), as more women spoke up.
Shortly thereafter, the campaign moved back to Facebook with an added element: changing your profile picture to one of the two seen above, the yellow meaning “I know someone who has been sexually abused”, and the orange meaning “I have been sexually abused”. Some have even taken to using half of both images, and putting them together. Participants are also encouraged to share their stories.
While many Facebook initiatives involve changing profile pictures as a gesture of support, this initiative has the added element of providing a visual aid, as one scrolls their news feed, of how widespread sexual abuse is. It has already taken off in the Icelandic corners of Facebook, and may spread farther afield, in much the same way #freethenipple did.
“I think this is the beginning of a revolution,” writer Andrea Eyland Sóleyjar- og Björgvinsdóttir told RÚV. “Reading these stories encourages other women to come forward and tell their story. They have to know they have nothing to be ashamed about. We need to tear down the wall of silence, which serves no purpose but to defend perpetrators of sexual violence.”