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#MeToo: Now I know I am not alone

I was sexually abused as a teenager and I want people to know because silence is dangerous.

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#MeToo: Now I know I am not alone

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By Irina Sheludkova

We have always lived in a culture of silence. Society does not like awkward truths and often pressures and obliges certain groups to surrender instead of fighting.

The revelations that began in Hollywood and have since stretched through numerous stories of sexual harassment and violence have opened the door to one aspect of this gagging process where human dignity was repressed in favour of avoiding disruption to the structures of power.

While the door has been opened, the spell has not entirely been broken. Hundreds and thousands of people have opened up on social media to talk about something they may have felt was just a misfortune that they were supposed to deal with themselves, alone.

But how many more are still trapped by fear of the reactions of the families, employers, acquaintances if they tell their stories?

I want to join the first group because I believe the consipiracy can be undone if enough people stand up and speak out and prove that this is not a problem caused by Harvey Weinstein or Louis CK or any other individual. It is something much deeper, and the solution is not that individuals should be held accountable for their actions, although they should be. The solution is that everyone, whether they feel themselves to be an abuser or a victim or neither, reflects on what they can do to end this.

It happened to #metoo.

Just after I finished high school I decided to take kickboxing classes together with another girl a bit younger than me. We were excited to try something that girls in Kazakhstan didn’t usually do in the 1990s. Training went pretty well for a few weeks, we trained hard, and I trusted our coach. He was actually acquainted with the family of my friend and was respected in his professional domain.

Then one day he managed to persuade me that a sauna and medical massage should be integrated into the training process and that he had the knowledge and experience to show me how. There is nothing to be shy about, he said. I was still so young, and it never crossed my mind that this man with grey hair, much older than me, would simply prey on me. I trusted him. But in the sauna, instead of fixing my sore muscles, he all of a sudden penetrated me with his fingers and touched me all over, and then stripped himself naked, telling me I must get used to seeing real men from now on.

I was terrified, disgusted and shocked. I felt violated. He didn’t do anything more, but more than enough. And I felt helpless, who would believe me and punish him? I never went to training since then. And it took me few years after to feel comfortable around male trainers again.

Now I know I am not alone. Even at the highest levels of sport, in the USA gymnastics team, women like McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman say they experienced the same kind of abuse from someone they trusted, someone who had power over them.
I can only hope that these tide of voices end in more than a handful of prosecutions but will push debate further and bring more awareness to the plague of sexual harassment that crosses all national borders. We need to face up to the scale of the problem and accept that in some way or another we all have had a part to play.

We have a chance to create a world doctors and coaches don’t molest kids and teenagers, where getting a job does not involve a different process based around your gender, and where speaking out earns respect and not reprobation. That’s why I am adding my voice.

Irina Sheludkova is a journalist on Euronews’ Russian service

The opinions expressed in View articles do not reflect those of Euronews