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Call to action | #16Days campaign to amplify the voice of survivors and other activists and rallying for the prevention of gender-based violence

11 December 2023

This year’s Orange the World campaign in the Netherlands on “Safety, everywhere and always” addressed the role that society and citizens at the individual level must play in preventing and responding to sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence. By positioning the citizen as one who should engage and participate in the response, such an action further challenges previous notions that these forms of violence are a ‘private’ issue, and recognizes the pervasive trends that currently exist. The campaign offered concrete directions for society, for example through a pledge that among other goals, aims to encourage citizens to take women and girls seriously when they report violence and to support them in their search for support.

Not only citizens but also civil society organisations working around violence and shifting the current narrative around stereotypes and victim blame have an important role to play. It is these types organisations that empower women and girls to assert their rights and seek help when they experience violence, and are essential in tackling gender-based violence and driving progress toward a more equitable and violence-free world for women and girls. We stand together as a strong and autonomous feminist movement, acknowledging our #unity as a critical factor for driving change in ending gender-based violence both in domestic and global policy making. We encourage the perspective of the survivor to be at the fore, the one who is best placed to offer insights into not only the impact of this form of violence but also what a positive impact from society can offer:

De wereld is niet veilig. Hoewel zelden bespreekbaar, seksuele overschrijdingen zijn orde van de dag. Van ernstige vergrijpen tot ogenschijnlijk onschuldige opmerkingen, bepalen de sfeer waarin we elke dag bewegen. Het taboe is nog altijd te hardnekkig om er over te kunnen spreken. De maatschappij verwacht een spoedig herstel, waarna het afgesloten kan worden. Maar zo makkelijk is dat niet. Voor mij zou erkenning betekenen dat het oké is als je er jaren later nog steeds de effecten van merkt. Dat de pijn en het verdriet er mogen zijn. Dat ik ook gewoon mag praten over mijn ervaring, zonder meteen doorverwezen te worden naar hulpverlening. Dat het niet gek is dat ‘er nog steeds zo mee zit’. Herstel kent geen houdbaarheidsdatum. Dat mijn ervaring niet te heftig is om aan te horen. De ervaring ervaren was dat wel. Luisteren is wat ons helpt, er zijn is wat ons steunt, verbinding is wat ons heelt. 

Luister naar wat mij is aangedaan. Luister naar mijn woorden, zie mijn angst en voel mijn pijn. Ik kan het zelf dragen, maar het is zoveel lichter met jou samen! 

Meer dan 20 jaar geleden. Al lang vergeten, maar niet door mij. Wil je even bij me zijn? Dan ben ik niet zo eenzaam. 

In English:

We live in an unsafe world. Although rarely discussed, sexual transgressions are order of the day. From serious offenses to apparently innocent comments, these actions determine the atmosphere in which we function every day. The taboo is still too persistent. Society expects a speedy recovery, after which the affected person must move on. But it’s not that easy. To me, recognition would mean that it’s okay if you still feel the effects years later. Let the pain and sadness be there. Let me just talk about my experience, without being immediately referred to support services. Do not be surprised that ‘it still bothers me’. Recovery has no expiration date. That my experience is not too intense to hear. Experiencing the experience was too intense. Listening is what helps us, being there is what supports us, connection is what heals us.

Listen to what was done to me. Listen to my words, see my fear and feel my pain. I can carry it myself, but it is so much lighter with you!

More than 20 years ago. Long forgotten, but not by me. Would you like to be with me for a moment? Then I can feel less alone.

Collage of one survivor sharing feelings invoked by the word “recognition”. Top right corner caption reads “You have fallen – but I’m holding you”. Middle of the page caption reads: “Support in hard times”. Bottom left reads “Speak out that you believe the victim”. Bottom right reads: “Feel better” and “A listening ear. Bottom reads: “A sense of justice”.