Russian women find their voice as #MeToo movement spreads

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Russian journalist Daria Zhuk in Moscow in March.

  • Moscow (IWN)- Russian journalist Daria Zhuk had just walked her guest into the newsroom when she felt a hand slap her backside. Horrified, Zhuk says, sheturned to the guest, Russian parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky, who then linged towards her for a kiss. Zhuk, then 24 was in her second year working as a producer and guest ediitor at the Russian independent media outlet TV Dozhd.

    "I remember the helpless feeling i had", Zhuk tells IWN about the incident she said happened in November 2014. 

    "Here's this big man residing over you. He's a show's guest. I didn't know how to react. I told him something for sure. Something like, 'what are you doing -- what is that?
    "But I was not able to defend myself properly, probably because I was scared." 
    During the weeks leading up to the incident, Zhuk says she had fended off Slutsky's unwanted advances delivered by phone and text messages, but she never imagined that it would get physical in person.
     
    Zhuk is one of three female journalists who have accused Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma's committee on foreign relations, of inappropriate behavior toward them. Slutsky has denied all allegations.
    By going public with her story, Zhuk hopes the conversation around sexual harassment, which is not a punishable offense in Russia, might change.
    In some ways that conversation is already shifting. Zhuk and her colleagues' MeToo moments have been met with support from many Russian media outlets — an unexpected show of solidarity in a country where outspoken discord is often silenced.
     
    The producer had first met Slutsky when he was a guest on another show. Shortly after that meeting, he invited her out for dinner. She declined. After she invited him to speak on the network's political evening program in November, Slutsky continued to send messages to her in a "vulgar, dirty way," and threatened to pull out of the show until the very last minute.
    She consistently rejected him "politely," emphasizing that the invitation to appear as a guest on the TV station's "Hard Day's Night" program was purely professional.
     
    When Zhuk told a senior male colleague about the indecent messages, he responded that the member of parliament was kind of an "awful person," but the independent network, which had been partially banned by the State, wanted him on the program to boost ratings. Determined to keep the show running smoothly, Zhuk says she chose a tactic of non-reply with him.

Source : IWN Online Editor

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