Rape survivor Jessica Foord encourages women to speak up about sexual abuse.
DURBAN - Durban rape survivor Jessica Foord and other groups have lent their voices to the #MeToo campaign which gained international momentum on social media this week. 

The hashtag campaign became a rallying cry against sexual abuse after an exposé detailed sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano, 44, ran with the trend when she shared a tweet calling for victims to reply to her with the “Me Too” hashtag.

Personal stories began pouring in from women from all walks of life, worldwide, using #MeToo. During the week, thousands of women, and some men, took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to disclose the harassment and abuse they had faced.

Foord also used her foundation’s social pages to keep the discussion around the campaign rolling. She told the Sunday Tribune any campaign aimed at generating awareness was great for the world. 

Foord, who was gang-raped by four men in 2008 while walking her dog in Shongweni, has become an activist fighting sexual abuse.  

“The best advice I can give women is to speak out. Even if you’re afraid to speak to someone in authority, seek counselling. There are many organisations which offer this. I also encourage men to speak out. It’s easy to teach girls how to be safe, but we also need to teach men how to be positive role models,” said Foord. 

South African NGO People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) also gave the campaign its approval.  Executive director Nhlanhla Mokwena said more training and co-operation was also required from the police to ensure women were confident enough to approach authorities.

“Belief is most important. When a woman says she was sexually abused, believe her. In some cases, people shun victims and refuse to believe that the abuser is capable of doing what they did. We need to support more women and refer them to those who can assist them.  Thora Mansfield of the Open Door Crisis Centre shared a different view.  In deep rural areas, people do not have access to Twitter or Facebook, or to support and information. If more people could support organisations locally, it would mean more than lending your voice to an international campaign."