Speaking out about a sexual assault is an incredibly courageous thing to do. After revealing on Sunday that she had been among Rolf Harris’ victims of sexual assault, Vanessa Feltz has been subjected to a diatribe of trolling on social media, and a barrage of comments about her appearance. 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year, and with the hate campaigns meted out against victims via social media, is it any wonder women are reluctant to report abuse?
The trolls have tweeted images of human defecation at Ms Feltz, labelled her a ‘fat slag’ and suggested she is lying to prophet financially from Harris’ conviction. These comments are deeply shocking, and not only serve to remind of us just how much women are hated, but also underscore the necessity for feminism. As Germaine Greer once wrote, ‘women have very little idea of how much men hate them.’ Well, ladies, with the dawn of social media, now we have a very big idea of just how much hatred is out there. When I read these abhorrent comments, I can’t help but think that these individuals are justifying sexual violence against women.
Here are just a few of the heinous tweets…
— Shatners Bassoon (@JudysJugs) July 6, 2014
Rolf Harris must have been drunk when he carried out these assaults. No-one, and I mean absolutely no-one, touches Vanessa Feltz sober.
— we all feel the same (@paulmaclyinghak) July 7, 2014
‘Vanessa Feltz abused me when I was younger’. -Greggs. — Mark Robinson (@robboma3) July 7, 2014
Even more worrying is the mass misogyny, fat shaming and senseless victim blaming that is endemic on social media. So, is it just skinny women who are raped? I think not. These comments treat the concept of rape as if it were a matter of consensual sex, and the victim being ‘fanciable’.
This horrible hate campaign directed towards #vanessafeltz is one reason why girls and women don’t speak out. It’s not big, clever or funny
— Sorted Magazine (@SortedMagazine) July 7, 2014
Approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, with fewer than one rape victim in 30 seeing their attacker brought to justice. Faced with the prospect of being trolled, fat shamed and accused of lying, it is no surprise that victims of sexual violence will not want to prolong their ordeal and subject themselves to further abuse after their harrowing ordeals.
Victims should be applauded for their bravery when discussing sexual violence; it is not a publicity stunt or an attempt to seek financial gain. Talking about sexual violence brings the issue to the forefront of our collective mind and reinforces the need for justice.
If we silence victims through fear of trolling, are we ensuring that discussions about sexual violence will be avoided completely?
One thing is clear: feminism needs to exist.