Why MeToo in Brazil did not launch yet, despite women’s attempts
In Brazil the fear of backlash, lack of media support and corporatism makes it very hard for victims to expose their abusers. Take for instance, the Klein pedophilia case, dubbed the ‘’Brazilian Epstein’’ — widely known for years, and widely kept hidden until alternative media platform, agencia publica, took the brave step to investigate and publish the story.
In Brazil, sexual harassment cases usually only evolves into serious inquiries once the media becomes involved or it reaches gigantic numbers such as the case of the spiritual guru ‘’Joao de Deus’’
Women in Brazil are less likely to be taken seriously as women in the US are. The backlash can be greater too, from being sued by the harasser for exposing his identity online, or sharing screenshots publicly, it is all prohibited and punished by law.
Our harasser obtained notoriety in Brazil as a sorta of sports and heart health ‘’Dr Oz’’ and is still writing sports columns for Globo, the largest media conglomerate in the country, and Band Sports, the 3rd largest platform, despite both companies being made aware of our claims and was provided with a police report.
I moved to Brazil after 18 years of living in the US, and two nights before new years eve my mother suffered a heart attack and I sought to get the medical opinion of a well respected cardiologist. The harassment occurred during the consultation. I was there to get a second opinion from an expert and hand my mother’s diagnosis. My heart was broken for the disrespect he showed me despite my mother’s health crisis. The disregard for her health was what hurted me most.
A month later I filed a police report, armed with consultation receipts, and my mobile phone which I voluntarily submitted to forensics.
Since filing this police report against this ‘renowned’ cardiologist in Brazil, even someone like me can find it hard to bring cases of harassment to the public light, not for fear but for a lack of trust in female voices. When I first spoke on social media about the harassment, I received both support and criticism as expected, but what surprised me most was the criticism coming from older women. Generations of women in Brazil have learned to hide harassment, it is what is expected. His PR assistant even went as far as suggesting I confused flirting behavior with harassment, ignoring codes of ethics that medical doctors have to swear on, which makes sexually touching companions of patients, and patients unethical and illegal. The boldness and ignorance of her statement is a clear mirror of the way women have been brought up in this country.
My inpatient with the way we have been treated was met with comments from friends as ‘’this is Brazil, Adriana, you can not expect the same seriousness as abroad’’
Enter victim No 2
Barbara Leite waited two years to file a report, and now I completely understand her reasoning, it is hard to stand against the status quo, unless you are a large group. Barbara is the investigative boss in our group, she was searching for other victims, scraping online posts until she found victim number 3 who wants to remain anonymous for the media but has submitted testimony to police. A year later she found me after I shared my police report online, in which I named the harasser. She also found, documented and collected testimonies of women whose abuse occurred in a span of 30 years.
Before meeting the other victims I was interviewed by not one but three major tv stations in Brazil and each interview was archived. They all told me they would choose to not broadcast it after all. Many reasons were given: I was the only victim, it was still under investigation and so on.
When other victims came forward the 2nd largest TV network in the nation offered us coverage on a primetime show to be aired on a Sunday evening. I explained to the producer I had been previously approached by the media and was not willing to do it all over again unless it was certain to broadcast, he agreed and we moved forward.
We did the interview on April 26 and 29. It was edited, and fully produced with us and the crew giving days of energy, dedication and trust, and set to be aired on the evening of May 3rd.
Suddenly it was pulled and the producer called us hours before to apologize.
The new reasons given: our voices weren’t enough, now they needed to hear it from the ministry of justice.
I can not express how disheartening it was for us, the victims, to hear this after pouring our hearts and finding the braveness to face the cameras and giving our testimonies.
On one side, we hate to expose ourselves to the media but we also know it is needed to stop him from abusing new patients and making past victims aware that we are out here ready to embrace them and hear them, we are in this together and they are safe to come forward. On the other hand, we are faced with obstacles from the very media that screams #metoo to cases of abuse by unknown men of lower and middle class, but are too fearful to support us when the harasser is a well known member of the medical society and a media personality.
What society is telling us is: ‘’you won’t have a case, until 100 other women have joined the list of victims’’ and the media can no longer ignore it.
This is very very troublesome. This is setting a dangerous trend.
Why should other dozens of women be exposed to a misogynist predator before someone finally says it ‘’Enough!’’
We need a Brazil, where authorities actually want to find new victims, want to investigate quicker, and want to hear from women. We need a Brazil where Barbara and other victims do not need to do investigative work, do not need to wait years to be heard and feel safe to name their abusers. We need a country where people feel safe to share the hashtag #metoo not after hundreds have already been made victims, but before the abuser has had access to more women to victimize! We need a country with #GenerationEquality.
Women in Brazil need more public support, regardless if the abuser is a media personality or a plumber, these cases should be treated equally.
My case has left one thing clear: our society’s ambiguity, unequality and hypocrisy on the way it protects wealthy abusers and takes no time to believe women when the accused is not famous.
AssedioNao.org is founded to help women recognize sexual harassment and how to safely gather and denounce cases of abuse to authorities.