Globally 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
ONE IN THREE.
From a societal perspective we are conditioned to stay silent. When we do come forward, so frequently survivors are met with slut shaming, victim blaming, criticism, and in some cases forced back into silence. In 2017 things began to change. We watched as the #metoo movement was revived, calling on women to share their stories after numerous women in Hollywood courageously came forward calling out their attackers. It began with Harvey Weinstein and has since grown, bringing to light the immense problem with men in power using their authority to objectify and abuse women.
Video after video came forward shedding a light on women's stories. Educating the world on what it is to experience sexual violence, and how you're treated afterwards.
The reality is, many women still fear sharing their stories. In Canada, only 33 of 1000 rape cases are reported. Even after women courageously come forward sharing their stories in Canada 997 out of 1000 attackers will walk free.
Statistics gathering on sexual violence can be difficult, merely because most cases go unreported. Before She Matters Movement began we spoke to women in Kenya, Canada, and the United States. We read your stories. We watched videos. We listened. A platform for survivors does not yet exist. We have resources through agencies and non-profit organizations like SACHA, RAINN, VICTIMS SUPPPORT UK, SAFEBAE -- to name a few. Unfortunately many of the government affiliated agencies and organizations have restrictions as to what content can be shared, and which direction they can take their programs. We applaud SAFEBAE for being an organization created by survivors to prevent future cases of sexual violence - starting at middle school / high school age. SAFEBAE was one of the first organizations to take a candid (and unfiltered) approach to ending sexual violence while appealing to the generation of youth in high school / university RIGHT NOW.
Still, we saw a need to create an online platform which shared fresh content for survivors, and women as a whole. A safe space for survivors to share their stories. A community for women to connect and support each other through the trauma they experienced. So how did She Matters begin? It all began with Jackie. A 16 year old young woman in Kenya. She was walking home from buying bread after school when she was brutally gang raped in Kibera slum. No one believed her. Or perhaps they did, but rape is simply so common in Kibera Slum (Nairobi), that her claims were not taken seriously. Jackie was impregnated in her attack. She chose to have her baby, partly because her mother had died when she was young, partly because it seemed like there was no other choice. I read her story online. There was a request for donations for this expectant mother's new baby. Despite knowing her child needed diapers, bottles, etc, all I could think of was Jackie. What was anyone doing to help HER? I asked if she had received treatment, counselling, if she had a family - my questions were met with virtually no answers. Just a request for donations. Time passed and one day while I was visiting a site in Kibera, I ran into a young mother. When I heard the Director of the NGO I was visiting say her name (who happened to be the same woman who had requested donations online) I knew this was no coincidence. Jackie was standing right infront of me. I immediately sat down with her. I asked her about her home life, discovering she was a single orphan with a father who lived upcountry, and a step mother who had several other children to care for. Life was difficult for her. Her mother wanted her to quit school and become a hair stylist. Something came forward in me. An urgent need to do more. That's when I asked Jackie if she wanted to join the Zawadi la Tumaini family - a beautiful family and support system at the children's home I created in Kenya 4 years prior. She immediately accepted, the rest is history. That is how She Matters Movement began. I was TIRED. Tired of seeing young women being raped simply for walking alone, tired of seeing men objectify us and assault us simply because of our gender, tired of staying in silence after my own attack because I feared my attacker (and what society would say).
Despite my age, being a single mother, and running a non-profit - therefore having very little money or connections, I knew that my voice mattered. I knew it was time to stop being silent. As I looked around me after coming forward with my story I still felt alone. Though women were starting to share their stories, there was no platform that united us all specifically for survivors, concerned parents, and men and women who wanted to stand in unity with survivors.
Those thoughts and feelings sparked the creation of She Matters.
She Matters is so much more than an online community.
It is a movement declaring that SHE MATTERS.
No matter what she wears.
No matter if she is drunk at a party.
No matter what she believes in, or who she loves.
For our mothers.
For our sisters.
For our friends.
For our daughters.
We're stronger together. You are not alone!
Written by: Jacqueline Villeneuve