In a never-ending series of trade protests against sexual harassment and violence that has rocked dozens of industries in Sweden in the past weeks, prostitutes and drug addicts have joined the #Metoo protest, voicing their personal stories of exposure.
Under the hashtag #intedinhora (“Not your whore”) and #utanskyddsnät (“Without protection”) current and former sex workers and women with a history of drug abuse and criminal behavior are now weighing in to protest sexual abuse and harassment.
The #utanskyddsnät campaign for women who have suffered from drug addiction and committed crimes was started by Birgitta Johnsson. By her own admission, she has personal memories of abuse and violence, despite kicking her own drug habit 17 years ago.
“It’s time for us to make our voices heard. These are women who are ‘double-exposed,’ who have no safety network around them. Society does not pay attention to us properly,” Birgitta Johnsson told Swedish Radio. “I hope now that society now opens its eyes for these women who are so terribly vulnerable. Many of us have been involved in this since late childhood. And it has followed us throughout our lives,” Birgitta Johnsson added.
Many women who have joined the campaigns testify that the violence and abuse began early in their lives, as was the case with Amanda, one of the initiators of the #intedinhora campaign for sex workers.
“We, the two initiators [of the project], both experienced prostitution as children. This #Metoo campaign has meant so much to so many people, but many stories have been missing. We know that the people engaged in prostitution are very vulnerable. This is not about an industry or profession, it’s mere vulnerability,” Amanda told Swedish Radio.
Both groups are now collecting personal stories to reach a greater impact. Campaign activists have visited women in closed institutions who lack internet or access to Facebook, where the group was assembled. Instead, those women were given an opportunity to write down their stories by hand.
“Once I fell asleep during an overdose, woke up alone, naked and my whole body drenched with sperm. So disgusting and humiliating,” one of the testimonies read.
“After a long group rape, while I was dozing off, they wrote words all over my body. Whore, slut, bitch. I remember my friend’s sad eyes when she saw these words,” another testimony read.
The third read, “sometimes I received a beating during the act itself. Sometimes I had to interrupt it in order to vomit. Sometimes I wasn’t even allowed to interrupt.”
“Our goal is to make those in power direct their attention to this group and strengthen the legislation. We also want to increase skills in healthcare for vulnerable people to get help,” Amanda explained.
Both campaigns triggered a strong reaction among Swedish political circles. Equality Minister Åsa Regnér said she was “incredibly angry over men who made this situation possible.”
Previously, dozens of Swedish industries came up with separate trade petitions to protest injustice, inequality, sex abuse and harassment, embracing thousands of women, including high-ranking politicians, movie stars and celebrities. Anti-harassment campaigns were joined by 576 actors, 653 opera singers, 620 dancers, 12,000 lawyers, 1,993 pop artists, 1,300 politicians, 1,382 women in the Church of Sweden, over 4,000 journalists, over 4,000 women in the construction industry, over 2,000 women in PR, as well as hundreds of women in IT, rescue service, the restaurant business, education, trade unions and even the Swedish Academy.
At present, testimonies are being gathered among social workers, florists, public servants, agriculturalists and within the insurance industry and transportation.