Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

The End of Innocence

MeToo has reached Venezuela, finally, with a frenzy of accusations in social media, the respective political deformations, and one suicide so far. The country has some days of long-delayed complicated conversations ahead

I never had doubts that Venezuela would see its own #MeToo movement. It was a matter of time. Ours is a society uninterested in what it perceives as “first world issues” like gender equality, gender-based violence or LGBQTI rights, but where stories of harassment and sexual abuse are common despite our collective sugar-coating efforts. 

What I never anticipated was the sheer force and number of stories that would come to light, and the unexpected turn of events surrounding one of the main figures involved in the allegations, Willy McKey, who took his own life yesterday afternoon. 

McKey was an awarded poet and writer, and a well-known editor who worked for different cultural publications. Some of the allegations of what he did, as a prominent player in literary circles, describe a painfully familiar story: demands for sexual favors in exchange for promises to boost a literary and journalistic career. One case involved a 16-year-old girl. He was 36 back then.

The lack of fully functioning institutions and an independent judicial system only adds to the despair of victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

The story about his abuse posted by someone under the pseudonym of “Pía” on Twitter, was preceded by numerous allegations against several musicians on social media last week. But in the past 48 hours, stunned Venezuelans have followed the tsunami of stories and allegations from women from diverse areas, from politics to journalism, recounting with bravery the abuse they endured. Men are also courageously stepping up to expose their stories as victims of sexual abuse. They all carry the same pain and despair. It’s been a rude awakening for a society that took its fantasized self-image of being classless and inclusive as an indisputable truth, but that, in reality, it’s a culture where sexism is ingrained and sexual abuse mounts to nothing more than a punch line. 

The lack of fully functioning institutions and an independent judicial system only adds to the despair of victims and survivors of gender-based violence. They’re left with few options other than a moral sanction for the abusers, while a self-proclaimed “feminist” revolution administers an indolent and negligent State that drags its feet when it comes to adopting policies to prevent and duly prosecute cases of violence against women and girls

As other countries that went through their own #MeToo processes before us, it’s a moment of collective reckoning with who we are and what we stand for. It’s a moment to reflect about how the system and its various strands sexualize and objectify women and girls, and how that’s wrongfully seen as “part of our culture.” It’s a time to unscramble how sexual harassment, abuse, and violence have been normalized to the point that it’s understood as an “inevitable” byproduct of gender relations. It’s a time to examine the humanity and pain in those who chose silence out of fear of being mocked, belittled, excluded or harmed, and in those who are indirect victims of perpetrators. It’s also a time to pause and think hard on the treatment given to women and girls of all backgrounds and ages, and their place in society and to take meaningful action beyond the mere performative. 

It’s about time.

Luisa Kislinger

Luisa is a one-time career diplomat and all-time human rights and women's rights advocate.