Twitter: a place to talk about what is kept quiet
Under the hashtag #ididnotreport hundreds of sexual assault victims in the United Kingdom are speaking out on the social network.
The social networks have changed the way that society communicates. In its short history, it has served not just to improve the way in which users relate to each other, but also to promote support for several social movements. Now Twitter has become a way of denouncing what hundreds of sexual assault victims have never before had the courage to speak out about before.
A few days ago, we were surprised by a new hashtag that is gaining popularity on the social network. The hashtag #ididnotreport, which makes reference to the lack of prosecutions of sex crimes, was launched by an Internet user from London. The user, who is the author of the LondonFeminist blog, decided to use the hashtag in a message after being surprised by the results of a survey of victims of sexual assault, in which the most common reply of those questioned was that they didn’t report the crime for fear that the authorities would not believe them. Once again, Twitter has broken down barriers, showing that it has become a trusted tool of expression for people to speak out about those topics which even today society still doesn’t talk about.
The microblogging site has played an active part on many occasions not just in political movements but also in the help given after many natural disasters. Twitter was one of the fundamental tools during the political upheavals that took place in the Middle East at the beginning of 2011. It also served as a communication platform to put victims and families in contact with each other during the earthquake that Japan suffered in March 2011. The hashtags Japan and Egypt were among the most popular of the past year.
Now, Twitter has surprised us again by going further than was imagined by talking about sex crimes. This is a taboo subject in many societies in which the people affected dare not speak. In many cases, they don’t speak out for fear of not being taken seriously or the shame of not being able to prove what happened. The web has managed to bring these testimonies to light, enabling the facts to take on relevance at a social level and break down a barrier in such a way that was unimagined and has surprised even the blogger who started the hashtag.
Once the hashtag was launched it generated a wave of testimonies and opinions regarding all kinds of sexual assaults and abuse. The experience had widespread repercussions that are still relevant today. Even if the hashtag had nothing to do with the principal topics that the web was talking about in the United States and the United Kingdom, it has still had a huge volume of participation.
The testimonies are shocking. The variety of abuse suffered by women who hadn’t had the courage to speak out previously is uncountable. Twitter gave them the confidence necessary to open themselves up to the world and talk about their experiences, encouraging other victims to defend their rights. The hashtag’s objective was to make people understand the importance of reporting those crimes that are today considered to be of lesser importance, or are ignored or considered to be something natural. And above all, the goal was to encourage women to go the relevant authorities, setting precedents in these types of cases.
In the last few years, the 140-character social network has enabled people to communicate much more than other platforms that permit a wider reach. It has contributed to the liberation of more than one country, and now it has taken part in the liberation of hundreds of victims who had the burden of not being able to talk about what had happened to them until now.
We are, without doubt, experiencing a revolution. And it is not just solely a question of technology, or the commercial aspects or the use that brands make of a tool. Neither is it specifically related to a tool. Today we talk about Twitter, tomorrow it will be Facebook, Pinterest or YouTube. What is certain is that the web, in its current sociability mode is giving rise to new forms of interaction. Users can satisfy a range of needs through these platforms: they can search for a product, a service or contact a friend, among many others.
But they also has the possibility to use online platforms to speak out about painful events, and to talk about topics that can’t be talked about on other channels or communicate with loved ones when a catastrophe occurs. The social network revolution goes beyond technology and is connected to a new era in which people speak to each other more, and in which it is the users themselves who mark the pace of innovation.