*T/W: Assault. Reader discretion is advised.
TikTok is largely known for content that is funny, dance-based, or for 15-second tips on how to improve different aspects of your lifestyle. However, with the recent uproar and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, people have started to utilise the huge application userbase to raise awareness for social issues. Atlanta-based Sarah Biggers-Stewart has brought to light a different the reality and dangers of being a woman by using the TikTok trend, “Put Your Finger Down If…”. In a fashion that is similar to the game “Never Have I Ever”, participants are asked questions and asked to answer honestly. They hold up 10 fingers and put a finger down every time the answer of the question is “yes”, if the question relates to something they have done and/or something that has happened to them. Biggers-Stewart’s version now has over 16,000 videos posted by people who have reacted to her video. Her story was recently picked up by Buzzfeed and only then did she decide to post about it on her own Instagram profile.
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She explains that, despite the video being over a month old, she did not feel that it was appropriate to post about or promote it during the Black Lives Matter movement. However, she explained that Buzzfeed’s article reminded her of how the response to her video shows that female trauma as a result of assault, harassment and more is “real, it’s common, and it messes with you and your perception of the world”. Speaking to Buzzfeed, Biggers-Stewart shared,
“My content is all about life as a woman, and an unfortunate reality is that many of us have dealt with sexual and safety-related trauma,”
And she made a female reality version of the game “Never Have I Ever” on TikTok in early May to spread awareness and help other women who’ve been through similar experiences feel less alone. Some of the questions she has included in the video are:
“Put a finger down if you check your backseat and lock your doors the second you get inside your car.”
“Put a finger down if you’ve been touched inappropriately.”
“Put a finger down if you’ve experienced something really scary or even illegal and you were scared to report it because you didn’t think anybody would listen.”
Of the almost 16,000 responses she got were those from young girls (as young as 16), girls who said they were assaulted by men who were their acquaintances, women who shared their partners’ shocked reactions, men who shared their emotional responses to some of the videos they watched, and more. Biggers-Stewart went on to talk about how the responses were both surprising and an affirmation of the fact that sexual assault and harassment can happen to anyone,
“I was shocked by the magnitude. We all have to step up to protect each other more because this kind of trauma is way too common, and it can happen to anyone. There’s this idea that women who deal with these issues look or behave a certain way, like ‘she was asking for it,’ but that simply isn’t true. If you look at the videos, we all look very different from each other and yet we’ve had these shared experiences.”
In Malaysia alone, over a third of Malaysian women are sexually harassed. The Women’s Aid Organisation here has compiled statistics of the number of rape cases, cases of molestation and cases of sexual harassment going as far back as the year 2000.
However, these numbers merely represent those that have come forward with their experiences. Research done by YouGov Omnibus shows that only half of those who experience sexual harassment will report or tell something about the incident. And while it is women who are more likely to talk about the incident (one in six men also experience sexual harassment in Malaysia), only 15% tell the police about it. One of the main forms of sexual harassment that people in Malaysia face is assault (59%), verbal comments of inappropriate nature (48%), flashing (29%) and unwanted inappropriate photography/videography (20%). As a result of this, people try to avoid such situations by avoiding certain areas, minimising interaction with strangers and refraining from being alone. The need to learn self-defence and dress a certain way so as to avoid being harassed is prevailing, even more so than punishing those that have committed the crime. This is the result of widespread victim-blaming and a lack of education on what to do when faced with traumatic experiences such as these. Because of how uncommon it is here to discuss matters of a sexual context, many do not report what happened because of embarrassment (54%), because they feel that nothing would be done about the issue (38%) or because they fear the possible repercussions (26%).
Abuse and harassment are not to be taken lightly. Speak to someone you trust if you are going through emotional, psychological or physical abuse/harassment. You can also call the following organisations (no matter if you are a man or woman) for help:
- Women’s Aid Organization – +60 37957 5636 (Their website has an easy exit option & will not show up in browsing history should you need it)
- Malaysian Police – 999
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – +603 7877 0224
- Sisters In Islam (Telenisa Helpline) – +603 7960 8802
- Talian Kasih Hotline – 15999 (24h)
- The Befrienders KL – +603 7956 8144 / +603 7956 8145
*Cover image credits: Background: Kon Karampelas on Unsplash Left: Zuleika Marie Gomez on TikTok Centre: Vanessa on TikTok Right: Amber Mosley on TikTok