Silent…. no more
On the weekend of thanksgiving in Rhodes, Greece; a 21 year old woman was raped, brutally beaten with an iron, and while still alive; thrown over a cliff to her death. This is not some medieval murder story, this is the reality of 2018. The gruesome events have been spread through every news cycle, and reported often and loudly enough to finally start raising alarm bells, but what transpired is a story repeated all too often, and only recently is it gaining an audience inside and outside the country.
How can social media guide and help change the narrative and prevent sexual violence against women?
This could have taken place in any part of the world: Two young men (ages 19 & 21) and a young woman get together on what would have been like any other Saturday night. Text messages are exchanged, flirtation occurs, and a typical fun Saturday night; turns gruesome, violent and deadly, in a matter of hours. This could have been anywhere in the world, only this happened on a very touristy and popular island in southern Greece.
Social media has been over saturated with these stories, public outcry is at an all time high, yet it quickly morphs into, judge, jury and executioner of both the culprits and the victim. What is truly troubling is that social media have increasingly and far more often been the bullhorn of victim blaming and shaming. No matter how gruesome the crime, against the victim, “she should have known better” seems to be the main line of defense. Violence towards women in Greece is not new. Assault of young women and harassment of women in public is something that happens every day. The only thing that is slowly changing and ironically with the help of social media, is the a glaring and raw spotlight on Greek society’s disregard of young women, and their absolute and unequivocal right to refuse unwanted sexual advances. Yet there is still a pervasive view that women owe sex to men who hit on them.
Newspapers and investigative reporters are increasingly revealing news about the assault, rape and murder of young women (as young as 13 or 14 years old) from rich powerful men in the United States; to working class students in Greece, and this trend isn’t showing any signs of stopping. We are hearing more stories coming out, far more investigations are actually occurring rather than being swept under the rug, but to what end?
The changing face of gender norms in society
What Is Happening to our moral, societal, gender norms? Why are women still being attacked? Why are gay and transgender men still being attacked? The structure of society is being questioned. How gender norms are set are finally being questioned, especially in a very patriarchal, machismo society like the one expressed in Greek households. Are parents called upon to show up? Are they taking some responsibility for the actions of their children? Now more than ever, it has become a never ending earthquake with aftershocks in the collective consciousness.
We are called upon to ask the difficult questions and especially through social media, online forums and through the voices of other victims. Now more then ever, we question how men and women are treated by society; but much more importantly how they treat each other.What seems to be the rotting root in an already unstable tree, is the silence of bystanders, the indifference and cruel criticism in social and traditional media, and above all, the indifference of society as a whole in making fundamental changes to reporting, protecting and preventing these crimes from happening.
And after all the chaos, the reports, the damning statistics, what remains? Is this just another of the multitude of stories just like this one coming out of post crisis Greece? The increase of violence against anyone who is vulnerable, this separation of the “good families” from the bad? And after all the shock, the outrage, and the trials, how can social media be a source of change and building awareness ?
Taking information into our own hands seems to be the only way to educate young men and women, and more importantly protect them. Websites are being created to help young men and women who may be dealing with subjects; ironically too embarrassing to discuss openly with their parents or even their friends. Forums run by, written by and published by women have become much more popular, but what unfortunately is much harder to change and will take far longer to calibrate; is the mindset of society as a whole.
For the future I hope more young women and men, find the strength and support they need to be more vocal about the discrimination and harassment they might be receiving on a daily basis; but to come forward and talk about their experiences in a much more public way, resisting the shaming and silence they may have received from their families in the past.