Your Silence Is Loud

Sally Helliwell reports back after attending yesterday's 'Your Silence is LOUD' rally in London.

Your Silence Is Loud

I attended a Central London rally today, which declared Your Silence is LOUD. And indeed it is.

The rally was called by volunteers– a group of Israeli women living in the UK. The event was part of a wider global volunteer-led campaign that includes demonstrations, social media, and the launch of the website. Their aim is to draw attention to the silence of UN Women and other women's organisations, over the brutal attacks on 7.10, when Israeli women were burned, beheaded, raped, killed and kidnapped. It was attended by concerned Jewish women and men, and by some of us who stand in solidarity, because we understand that their fight is our fight.

Over the last few decades, as women have gained equality in many areas of public life, women's campaigns have shifted attention to the behaviour of men. Wolf-whistles, man-spreading on public transport and unwelcome attention from men have been the focus. When it comes to the more serious crime of rape, campaigners have highlighted low conviction rates and exhorted us to
"believe women".

The idea of innocent until proven guilty has often been put aside.

For me, precisely because rape is a serious crime, it is important that the accused is able to defend himself, that we do not just "believe women". We should take accusations seriously, but being serious means putting the accused on trial to establish guilt. For this reason, I have found myself at odds with the messages promoted by Me Too and Believe Her.

But given how loud the voices of women's groups were--following the revelations of Hollywood women about their treatment by Harvey Weinstein, and in the UK, following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard--I was expecting a loud reaction to the attacks of 7.10.

Israeli women were brutally raped and murdered. Some were paraded around and filmed by their attackers. The Hamas rapists did not try to hide their guilt. Indeed they filmed themselves and each other committing the brutal acts because they wanted to show them to the world, and to strike fear into the heart of Jewish

Yet the silence of those who supported Me Too and Believe Her has been deafening.

In the face of Hamas's brutality, we need to shout loud and clear. It is not acceptable that UN Women and other women's groups have remained silent on this matter. On this occasion, when the evidence is clear, many have suddenly discovered the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" and have used it as a convenient reason not to condemn Hamas' actions.

Finally, two months after the offences were committed, Guterres acknowledged that the numerous accounts of sexual violence "must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted". This is not acceptable.

I hope the demonstration today will cause some embarrassment to the UN and to those women’s campaigns who did not join us. The BBC and ITV failed to turn up to film us demonstrating, but I hope we can embarrass them into taking the brutality shown to Israeli women on 7.10, and its message of fear, very seriously.

Jewish people and Israel have found themselves on the front line against barbarism. We need to show them they are not alone.