British-Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert survived 804 days as a defiant hostage to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — the principal backer of Hamas — in 2018. At the ‘No Excuse for Sexual Violence’ vigil in Melbourne she spoke out about her experience. Here is what she said:
To be honest, I struggled with whether or not to take part in this vigil. Just as I have struggled every single day since October 7. I don't believe I'm the only one who feels that something profound was broken on that dreadful day of barbarism and slaughter. I've been struggling to reorient myself ever since.
As the terrible scenes unfolded that day, and social media filled with clips and images of the most horrific things, I was taken back to my own arrest and imprisonment during what was meant to be a two week academic trip to Iran.
In those first days I was a woman surrounded by a menacing group of black-clad men, many of whom covered their faces. The number one thing I feared was not the loss of my liberty, but sexual assault. It took months in Revolutionary Guard custody before I understood that as a foreign woman of some value to my captors, they would not be doing this to me. Hundreds of Israeli women and girls have not been so lucky.
I have tried to shelter myself as much as possible from the horrors of October 7, and in particular the torture and sexual violence inflicted upon Israeli women and girls before many of them were brutally murdered. In the weeks since however, the sickening details have somehow filtered in. The trauma of that terrible day is undeniable.
This subject is difficult to talk about. But talk about it we must. We have a particular duty to do so as women, and as feminists, because so many others have sought to minimise, erase or even outright deny what was inflicted upon innocent Israeli women and girls on that dreadful day.