Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced is a female advocacy group that’s representative of a greater global movement. As the organisation’s name suggests, SVWBS is dissatisfied with online discourses of sexual violence. The group initially gained traction with a change.org petition, which has been signed by over 16,000 users, asking NSW Parliament to ensure that appropriate laws exist and police have proper training to deal with cyber harassment. SVWBS’ founder Paloma Brierley Newton has since appeared on ABC’s 7.30 Report to renounce online shaming. She’s also published unflinching articles about her own experience of abuse.
“One young girl told me her ex kept sending her gross violent Facebook messages, tagging her in gross posts and making her feel uncomfortable,” Newton says. “She didn't even realise it was harassment until she saw a story about [SVWBS]. Now she's taking it more seriously and has told her family and friends. If we can make one woman feel safer, then we've already achieved more than we ever knew we could.”
Last year, Newton had a Sydney man charged over allegedly making heinous threats via Facebook (such as, “I’d rape you if you were better looking”). The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge of using a carriage service to menace, but returns to court in March. Despite frustrations with the police and court process, Newton marks this as SVWBS’ biggest achievement to date.
“Actually taking someone to court over online abuse, pointing out that it's a serious issue [is] hopefully setting a precedent and stopping other people from saying these things to women.”
SVWBS’s second event is called Shameless, and the evening promises a rowdy line-up of local female talent. Morning TV will play its danceable surf pop. Grungier tunes are expected from SCABZ and Dweeb City. Young Henrys will provide beers, and local artist Mikaela Stafford will transform Redfern’s 107 Projects with her installations. Proceeds from Shameless will go towards the Indigenous women’s network, Hey Sis.
“[Hey Sis is] an amazing charity and they really need funding,” Newton says. “It was an opportunity for us to actually give back to the community and make a difference.”
“I think the internet allows this strange thing to happen where suddenly you have a lot of power. The important thing to do is figure out how you can use that power for positive change.”
Shameless will be held at Redfern 107 Projects on January 29. Doors open at 7pm, with music starting at 8pm. Tickets are available here.