Twitter tackles rape: ‘What were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?’

(Photo courtesy of Christine Fox's Twitter Account)

(Photo courtesy of Christine Fox's Twitter Account)

It all began with a question on Twitter: “What were you wearing when you were sexually assaulted?”

The query was posted last week by Twitter user Christine Fox, @steenfox, whose timeline was quickly flooded with thousands of responses that revealed shocking truths and an ugly reality.

Fox was prompted to pose the question after she participated in an online debate earlier that day with a follower who believed that a woman’s choice in clothing could be a contributing factor to sexual assault.

“The problem isn’t how we dress ourselves, the problem is that men should not rape,” Fox told theGrio in a phone interview. “Women don’t deserve to be assaulted.” 

Fox took to Twitter to discredit the thought that a woman’s revealing attire leads to rape or assault — slamming the association as an outrageous observation. 

To support her claims, she shared a report of a grandmother who was raped by her 13-year-old grandson — using it as an example of how attire is often used as an absurd and baseless excuse for assault.

Then she tweeted: 

Followed by this:

At first, Fox said she did not receive any responses so she decided to tell her own experience, hoping her reveal would encourage others to share theirs.

“Jeans and a tank top,” she wrote. It was the first time Fox had ever mentioned her August 2000 assault experience on a public platform.

“After I hit send I felt something,” she said. “Nervous, kind of sick. It was scary.”

Soon, responses started flooding in from hundreds of users. She continued to refresh her timeline and the tweets kept pouring in revealing emotional and overwhelming accounts.

Here are a few (the tweets have not been attributed in effort to protect the privacy of the users):

@steenfox I was 18. Wearing a hoodie and some nikes. Had just got off work. Was someone I knew.

@steenfox I was 14. Wearing big sleep shirt and sleep shorts. I was sleeping at a GF’s. Neighbor boy came over in am. I had thought I liked him.

@steenfox First time: 5-6 y/o. Pajamas. Threatened to rape my female relatives if I said anything.+

@steenfox jeans, gray hoodie, sneakers. I was 15 @ school. Almost 3yrs later & I still haven’t told hardly anyone. OK to RT.

@steenfox 1st time navy high school uniform jumper 2nd hs tshirt &jeans 3rd halloween pocahontas costume

@steenfox A tank top and wrap around skirt. Age 5.

@steenfox I was wearing a brown Garanimals-type shirt w/green frogs on it, a brown fringe jacket, Wranglers and B. Brown loafers. 6. OKRT

“Reading these responses from people was really heartbreaking. I can’t tell you how many time I burst into tears,” Fox said.

The tweets were harrowing and Fox quickly lit up social media by bringing awareness to the significant issue of sexual assault in a way that allowed users to share a small piece of information that painted a much larger, and more graphic, picture.

The outcome far surpassed Fox’s expectations but the encouraging responses she received from users on Twitter reassured her that the virtual doors she opened were appreciated.

“I want to publicly say thank you to @steenfox for letting so many of us know that we aren’t alone,” one user tweeted. “We are stronger than we realize.”

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works