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How Brazilian women supported a 12-year-old reality star and fought sexual harassment.

How social media is giving women and girls the power to demand change.

How Brazilian women supported a 12-year-old reality star and fought sexual harassment.

This story was originally published on News Deeply.

After an episode of a Brazilian reality TV show, Twitter was bombarded with sexually explicit tweets aimed at contestant Valentina Shulz.

That may sound par for the course — except for the age of the target: Valentina, a competitor on "Masterchef Junior" last October, was just 12 years old.


The episode shocked the country into taking a hard look at the sexual harassment that women and girls face in daily life.

Brazilian feminist NGO Think Olga launched a Twitter hashtag campaign #PrimeiroAssédio — “first harassment” — where they could share their experiences.

“Our work is about empowerment through information, because violence against women will not end without women fighting for it,” said Luíse Bello, 26, manager of community and content at Think Olga.

Within four days, the hashtag was tweeted and retweeted 82,000 times. By analyzing 3,111 reports shared on Twitter, Think Olga calculated that the average age at which a Brazilian girl first experienced sexual harassment was 9.7 years — with some as young as 5.

One girl said a man exposed himself to her on a bus when she was 8; another said she was groped from behind at the same age; one said she stopped wearing shorts at the age of 10 because of the behavior of “old men on the street.”

“It was very moving to see women feeling comfortable talking about this for the first time,” Bello said. “Juliana Faria [Think Olga leader], who created the campaign, was first harassed at 11 years old; I was 9.

“The response we received surprised us. The number of women sharing stories of harassment as young teens and children was much higher than we expected.”

Bello said it was very moving to see women feeling comfortable talking openly about the subject.

“Usually, when a woman talks about harassment, it’s questioned — ‘But what clothes were you wearing?’ or ‘Why were you alone in that place?’ Our campaign showed that these were stories of children, so no one could insinuate that the catcalling and harassment was caused by them.”

The past year has seen a big increase in feminist activism in Brazil — a country where more than 10% of reported cases of violence against women are sexual assaults, according to Mapa da Violência (Map of Violence), a Brazilian organization that tracks violent crime. Among the victims, 9,000 are adolescent girls.

Using social media has given women and girls the courage to speak up and realize that their experiences are endemic across the country, the activists say.

“Some women take months or years to realize they are being abused or harassed,” said Bruna de Lara, a 20-year-old journalism student and member of the Brazilian feminist collective, Não me Kahlo. “In the classroom we see teachers sexually harassing students, and people find it funny. We are not accustomed to recognizing violence as violence.”

A month after Think Olga’s incentive, Não me Kahlo launched another Twitter hashtag campaign that quickly gained momentum — #meuamigosecreto (my secret friend) encouraging women to share stories of machismo, “mansplaining” (explaining to a woman in a condescending manner), “manterrupting” (sexist interruption), and violence against women. Last week, the organization published a book about the campaign, called “My Secret Friend: Feminism Through Social Networks.”

“Both campaigns were very important,” de Lara said. “After these hashtags appeared, the national telephone hotline to report physical, sexual and psychological violence against women received a 40 percent increase in calls.”

Young women and men were also encouraged to think about the issue by the national public university entrance examination in October 2015.

The theme for the writing portion of the test was “The persistence of violence against women in Brazilian society,” which encouraged more debate on the subject.

“These discussions about gender, about ways of thinking about this, have to begin very early in schools,” said Bello. “We are a country in denial that it has machismo, and this misogynist culture in which we live has many interconnected facets, not least of which is street harassment.”

De Lara’s activism with Não me Kahlo aims not only to expand women’s rights but also to prevent setbacks to their cause. A new law was recently proposed — without success — that would have obliged medical providers to report to the police any woman who sought treatment after a miscarriage or suspected abortion. (Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger.) Last year, for example, legislators proposed a law that would force rape victims to undergo medical tests to prove they had been raped; protestors took to the streets in several cities marching against it.

“The discussion of feminism itself — a movement that’s 100 years old — has to start from zero so many times,” de Lara said. “We could be fighting to legalize abortion, but instead we have to struggle to keep rights that we’ve already had for 60 years, and clear up obvious things, like the fact that we don’t hate men.”

Think Olga and Não me Kahlo both believe that the women’s movement in Brazil is at a critical stage in its growth.

Bello and de Lara are heartened by the increase in feminist discussion and debate through online networks that support women, like Facebook groups and Twitter.

“This fellowship is very important — it is sisterhood put into practice,” said Bello. “I hope these seeds we’re planting grow.”

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.