In Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds and killed every two hours. In Rio Grande do Norte, a state in northern Brazil, violence against women has risen 39 percent in the last four years. Despite Brazil’s recent progress in women’s rights and gender equality – there was a significant increase in female involvement in the workforce in the last decade and even a woman president in recent years – the system and culture still has a ways to go regarding the treatment of women in the nation.
Brazilian blogger and activist Clara Averbuck experienced this firsthand when she was sexually assaulted by her Uber driver. The driver took advantage of Averbuck’s inebriation on the way back from a party by pulling her into a dark street near Averbuck’s home and sexually assaultin her. Averbuck’s face was bruised as she was knocked to the ground. Averbuck launched an online campaign afterward, sharing a post on Facebook about her experience the next day.
“Well, I’m a statistic again,” the post begins. Averbuck explains the assault, debates whether or not she should report the driver, and criticizes how women’s complaints are never taken seriously by the police. It ends with, “The world is a horrible place to be a woman.”
The hashtag #MeuMotoristaAbusador (#MyMotoristAbuser) was then used on Twitter to share similar experiences with male drivers. Several women used the hashtag to share security measures that they use in Ubers, such as photographing the license plate of the car and sending it to friends and family. The tweets quickly raised attention online, and the campaign was covered by various English-based sites, such as Buzzfeed and The Guardian despite being based in Portuguese.
“I received a message from the driver saying I was hot. I said I’d report it. He said he knew where I lived,” reads one translated Tweet. Another tweet talks about someone much closer than an Uber driver: “My ‘friend’ gave me a ride, when I was asleep he took me to his house and tried to rape me.”
Clara Averbuck also runs a feminist blog, A Woman’s Place, which features posts from various contributors on topics such as rape, dating, important female figures, and misogyny. Averbuck is a well-known feminist blogger in Brazil and has published a number of books since her rise to fame in blogging. Of the attitudes toward gender in Brazil, Averbuck has said, “Masculinity is constructed on violence, on domination and on subjugation of what is feminine.”
Averbuck and other Brazilian women have noted that the Brazilian legal system does not believe or take women seriously in accusations of assault. The police and courts do little to help women, and a low budget exacerbates the already lacking aid.
This problem is also evident with domestic violence; many women cannot find a way to leave their abusers, and those that do find a way cannot stay hidden from them or obtain restraining orders. Just before the 2016 Olympics, Alexsandra Moreira was publicly stabbed 21 times by her abusive husband shortly after she had finally left him. She reported his actions to the police and escaped to a women’s shelter.
The fact that a victim of domestic violence was not protected after reaching out for help, along with the fact that sexual assault by male drivers seems to be concerningly common, shows that something in Brazil must change.
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