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Viva the Revolution! (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

In the past year, feminists, and in particular young women, fighting the invisible barriers still prominent in Icelandic society, have participated in one social media revolution after another.

Last week, yet another wave ripped through society, this time sharing stories of the day after they were sexually assaulted, under new hashtags, #eftirkynferðisofbeldi (after sexual assault), #daginneftir (day after) and #langtímaafleiðingar (longterm consequences).

This revolution is in defiance of comments made in recent days (and for as long as I can remember) about how women react in the days and weeks after they are raped “may show” they were not raped.

The view is that a woman who has been raped should be curled up in her sofa, red-eyed and obviously in a state of great distress. The fact that people who suffer trauma, whether it is a plane crash or a vicious assault, may seem just fine on the surface, does not mean they are.

And that is what lawyers defending individuals accused of rape have used against the accuser. And, therefore, the revolution to defy and attempt to open people’s eyes to how hidden trauma after sexual assault is just as severe as visible bruises.

One woman talks about a cab driver who after raping her refused to accept payment for the ride. She blamed herself and questioned her own integrity.

Another woman pretended everything was okay around mutual friends of hers and the man who raped her during the Merchant’s holiday weekend (Icelandic Bank Holiday).

These are just a couple of stories posted, stories that are among a few quoted in an article about the campaign.

Iceland in general is perceived to be a haven of safety and equal rights to the outside world. And I guess parental leave for both mother and father and near-equal participation of women and men in the work force looks pretty good compared to places where it is not so.

But that doesn’t mean Iceland is a feminist haven. It’s far from it in some aspects and it’s becoming more and more obvious.

If a person is raped in Iceland, the likelihood of the perpetrator or perpetrators being convicted of the crime is not high at all. Defense lawyers may very well press charges against the victim for false accusastions against their client or clients.

If you fail to show bruises or dare to not be a wreckage on the outside in the days to follow, the laws may deem it so that your case is not worth taking to court. Any sign of “normality” seems to be interpreted as a sign of no harm done.

A man of foreign descent was arrested for infecting Icelandic women with the HIV virus during consensual intercourse, on supicionon of it being his intention to do so. He was not given the benefit of the doubt the way an individual accused of rape is in the majority of cases.

Do women feel safe in Iceland? Well, we do and we don’t. If we are lucky enough to go through life without being raped, we have nonetheless spent our whole life fearing we might be. And women who are raped in Iceland are at one point or another going to meet their rapist out and about.

Does that mean they should hide under a rock and never leave their homes?

No, not at all. And they shouldn’t be kicked out of a bar or refused entrance because they report the presence of a man who assaulted one of them, as happened recently enough in the city center.

This past summer, in the annual Slut Walk, the thousands of women and men carrying an orange balloon returned the shame inflicted upon them by the people who raped and molested them.

But the system continues to shame the victims. The innocent until proven guilty is a valid legal point but what does it say about the person pressing charges or accusing the accused of a crime?

The system seems to be so preoccupied with protecting the reputation of the person accused of a crime, that it fails to take into account the traumatized accuser who pressed charges against a person they fear.

Does the system simply see them as liars until proven truthful?

How can the system respect the rights of the accused while protecting the accuser is a question I ask myself.

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In conclusion, I want to say a few words about the attacks in Paris.

Paris is a city where diversity and the art of joie de vivre is cherished; where I always felt at home. I believe in my heart that violence will not take away the beauty of life that thrives in the city.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.