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Dana International: “The laws have changed, sexual predators will pay for their actions.”

#MeToo: Following the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, American women of all ages and backgrounds shared achingly painful stories of sexual harassment and assault. The growing number of voices inspired women in Israel to come out with their own sexual harassment stories. Transgender Israeli singer Dana International wrote about the growing movement of women on Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.

Photo credit: Vardi Kahana

Over the last week, I read the many words written in pain, courageously and honestly by familiar, strong and beloved women who were sexually assaulted here in Israel and around the world. The wording is different, the places are different, periods and times are different – and yet it’s all the same. All the stories are one story, and the time has come for it to be heard and shaken and horrified, to shock and embarrass those who should be ashamed, and to give courage and strength to those who still need it. Those who have been through it: You are not alone.

I have the feeling that people like me experienced sexual harassment more blatantly and directly. I have a feeling that our sexuality, which is more out in the open, more exposed, and more courageous, gives others the feeling that it’s okay [to harass]. I know it well. The blunt words, the hug that makes two steps forward, the seemingly friendly kiss that becomes intrusive and violent.

I remember quite a few of them. The last time it was a soundman who asked for a lift after a show. I sat in the dark back seat of the van, and suddenly I felt his hands beginning to climb on top of me. I was shocked. This of course didn’t last, but there was still a sense of shame that he had decided to do it because somehow it was clear to him that I would bow down, that I wanted to.

It also seems to me that I am among the not-so-many who have experienced these humiliations publicly. In interviews I was asked questions that male singers would never be asked. The most memorable case was at the beginning of my career, when TV host Dudu Topaz hosted me on his primetime show and said to me: It’s time you told us what you have down there. Did you cut it or didn’t you cut it? I shrank with shame, I felt insulted and angry at something so violent and coarse, but yet I was trying to smile as if it was nothing.

I know how to defend myself, but I don’t know how to overcome the feeling of humiliation and disgust. And these feelings must not be allowed to win because the real humiliated ones are not us. And for those who dare to humiliate himself and do these things, you should know that the laws have changed and that they will pay for their actions. Their friends, their acquaintances, their family – everyone will know what they did. Because we are not going to be silent anymore.