Trini women join #lifeinleggings movement to raise awareness of sexual harassment

Tales of sexual harassment and sexual and domestic abuse at the hands of men in Trinidad and Tobago are circulating on social media as women join the Life in Leggings hashtag.

Created by two Barbadian friends,Ronelle King and Allyson Benn, the hashtag is aimed at highlighting women's sexual assault stories to show men that the experiences are not just the domain of a few. 

“The hashtag encourages women to share their sexual assault experiences with men so that the men on their timeline would be forced to acknowledge that every single woman they know experiences this from the "ghetto" to the "bourgeois" as well as from their "daughters" to their "mothers"," King told Loop Barbados.

She explained that #LifeInLeggings was chosen because leggings are the main article of clothing that are considered ‘slack’ and almost every woman from all walks of life owns a pair.

 “I've always been outspoken about injustices in society but after observing the comments on Sherri-Ann Norris' video and seeing that some men were attempting to justify their abhorrent behaviour that I realised something else needed to be done," she said.

Norris is a Bajan blogger who sparked controversy when she spoke out on the issue of street harassment. 

Women all over the Caribbean have been sharing painful stories from their experiences from childhood into their teens and adulthood.

Stories range from sexual abuse at the hands of relatives and family friends to comments from men on the street. 

The hashtag has engaged the attention and support of women's groups all over the Caribbean. 

"The fact that the hashtag has gotten so much traction throughout the Caribbean speaks to the importance of the space it has created for Caribbean women to talk about their experiences of abuse. We can see that for many women their sharing has been deeply cathartic, especially in the face of prolonged silence, fear and shame. It seems that this moment is what so many of us have been waiting for because it has made visible a whole community of women who share similar experiences and from whom we can draw strength to share our own," said Stephanie Leitch of Womantra.

She said at the political level, the visibility of this type of movement is critical to highlighting some of the major institutional failures of governments to protect women.

"This, in a region where three of the top 10 rape rates in  the world occur in the Caribbean (SVG, Jamaica & Bahamas) and ALL Caribbean countries have a higher rape rate than the global average. The stories of these women are shocking enough but when coupled with these statistics it paints a very dark picture. I  mean I don't know if twitter can change the world but if you get enough women talking, who knows what the possibilities are for movement building across the region around sexual violence; organising has begun.

"Already there have been lessons learned or rather just reminders of how difficult it is for women to grieve their own situation, unburdened by the responsibility of protecting male egos and justifying their victimhood. The cyber attacks on women by men who have created a narrative of conspiracy is deeply hurtful and reminds us of just how much work is still needed. As a beginning, we challenge all men to listen to the women who are sharing their stories and offer no judgment or advice," she said.