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‘When I said no’: Danish women in campaign against sexual assault victim blaming

Women in Denmark have joined a social media movement responding to victim blaming of women who have suffered sexual violence and harassment.

'When I said no': Danish women in campaign against sexual assault victim blaming
Illustration file photo: Issei Kato/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpi

Using the hashtag #dajegsagdefra, which translates loosely to ‘when I said no’, women have described assault, attacks, violence, harassment and humiliation against them which occurred or continued after they rejected the advances of an attacker.

The hashtag began to trend in response to social media comments suggesting women can avoid being assaulted simply by firmly ‘saying no’ (ved at sige fra). Such comments have been criticised as an attempt to place responsibility for sexual assault, violence and harassment with victims.

The discussion is linked to Denmark’s #MeToo debate, which remains a prominent issue in the country after thousands of women shared stories of sexual harassment in late 2020.

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 In the hashtagged tweets, the women describe situations of sexual assault or harassment which escalated after they told the aggressor to stop.

Kirstine Holst, the chairperson of support organisation Voldtægtsofres Vilkår, is among those to have shared personal accounts.

“When I said no I was held by the throat and raped”, Holst’s tweet reads.

Another voice in the Danish debate, Khaterah Parwani, is also among those to have tweeted using the hashtag.

Parwani is director of Løft, an organisation which works against negative social control.

She described several incidents in which she was subjected to violence and abuse after saying no to an aggressor, including being “unrecognisable at hospital” after an attack and “beaten up in a car and lying bleeding on a wet pavement”.

A number of Twitter uses in Denmark also highlighted on Tuesday a report issued by police in North Zealand of an incident in which a 22-year-old man punched and kicked a 15-year-old girl after she asked him to stop whistling at her and friends, and told him her age.

That incident occurred in the town of Espergærde.

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FEATURE

Sexual misconduct ’53 times in one year’ for Danish Social Democratic party

Up to 53 members of the Social Democrats, the governing political party in Denmark, have been subjected to sexual misconduct during the last year, according to a media report.

Sexual misconduct '53 times in one year' for Danish Social Democratic party
Former Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen speaks to media in October 2020. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

During the last year, 53 party members say they have experienced inappropriate attention which was sexual in nature, according to a report by national broadcaster DR.

An internal survey of party members resulted in 53 people responding that they had been the victim of sexual misconduct within the last year, according to an internal letter detailing the conclusions of the survey and seen by DR. Both men and women were affected by the misconduct, according to the broadcaster’s report.

“This is something we take very seriously,” party secretary Jan Juul Christensen is reported to have written in the letter.

Around 7,000 of the Social Democrats’ 35,000 members in Denmark took part in the survey.

“I am surprised that 53 said yes to whether they have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour during the last 12 months. That should not be the basis (of results),” Christensen told DR.

“You can say that we have something we need to do something about. The debate over the last six months has shown that,” he added in reference to the reignited #MeToo debate in Denmark.

Sexism and harassment became a major topic in Denmark in August 2020 – dwarfing the country’s original 2017 #MeToo debate — when presenter Sofie Linde, a household name, stunned viewers of a live TV gala by recounting how a senior television executive offered to advance her career in exchange for oral sex, 12 years earlier.

1,600 women later signed an open letter declaring that they had experienced sexism during their careers. Prominent political figures including former leader of the Social Liberal party Morten Østergaard and Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen, a Social Democrat, lost their jobs after women went public with accounts of sexual harassment.

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Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has admitted that her party has a problem with sexual harassment and sexism but denied the issue within the Social Democrats was “very big”.

“The short answer is yes, there is (a problem). Because every time a person who experiences harassment or unwanted attention – sexual misconduct or derogatory speech or similar – that’s one person too many who has experience it,” Frederiksen told DR.

“That’s why we partly initiated this membership survey so we can have the problem clarified. It is not (a) very big (problem), but it’s there,” she said.

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