Last night saw the #ItsNotOk Light Up the Night London march take place across Tower Bridge, whereby sexual abuse survivors, campaigners and activists held their lights aloft in a march to show solidarity for sexual abuse victims as part of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
The event, initiated by #ItsNotOk founder Yehudis Goldsobel, who was a victim of sexual abuse at the age of 13, saw the first male UN Ambassador for the He For She Campaign, Farhan Akhtar follow the lead of actress Thandie Newton (Westworld), who attended the year before, as he led the women as the celebrity supporter. As an internationally recognised megastar owing to his profile as a movie producer, singer, songwriter and actor, Farhan Akhtar recently launched the MARD initiative –Men Against Rape & Discrimination, which seeks to change male attitudes and bring positive change to the role and respect of women in the sub-continent. He joined Yehudis and Claire Waxman, the Victim Commissioner for London, as they took a stand against sexual abuse and violence by ‘lighting up London’.
The aim of the march was to show solidarity with victims, inspire others to speak out about their trauma and show a group of women in defiance against the threat of sexual abuse and violence. As a globally recognised celebrity in the spotlight, Farhan’s involvement attracted widespread interest as camera crews sought to receive his thoughts on the importance of such a movement.
Speaking during the march, Farhan said:
“I feel honoured to be able to join this group as they march across one of London’s most iconic landmarks with their lights held aloft and their banners displayed proudly. It is a real sign of solidarity for the victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence that we are able to come together to raise awareness of the indescribable maltreatment and trauma that these victims face.
“I sincerely hope that people can look at this march and feel the strength to speak out when it comes to the issues surrounding sexual abuse and violence. I think the work that the campaigners and activists do is inspiring and as a UN ambassador for the He For She campaign, I am touched by their work and bravery. This is not a topic that should be allowed to fade away in silence, and victims have been suffering in silence for far too long. To walk proudly across the bridge chanting ‘It’s not ok’ is a real display of togetherness as we share the message that sexual abuse and sexual violence is most definitely not okay!”
The crowd of women began at the foot of Tower Bridge before marching across the bridge towards City Hall, where they pitched up in front of the ambience of the River Thames to share poems of female empowerment, before walking back across the bridge to their starting point. The Light up London march takes place every year as part of sexual violence and abuse awareness week and continues to provide the opportunity for any single individual or large organisation who believe in bringing sexual abuse and violence into the open to unite and speak out against it with one collective voice.
Yehudis launched the Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week campaign in 2015, after going public about her own experience of abuse at the age of 13 at the hands of a long-term family friend. The aim of #ItsNotOk is to generate discussion among the general public, statutory bodies and voluntary and community sector organisations, to empower victims and survivors, and to unite us all in the acknowledgement that sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence are unacceptable.