Twitter user @Steenfox—real name Christine Fox—was still reeling Wednesday evening from an earlier online debate with a follower who insisted that women's revealing attire could be a contributing factor to sexual assault.
"I was trying to make him understand that it absolutely does not make a difference, and that the responsibility does not lie on women," she told The Root.
So when a report of a grandmother's assault came across her timeline, she used it as a reminder of the absurdity of blaming women's clothes or conduct for their attacks.
Then, on a whim, she asked her followers to join her.
The response was overwhelming. Within two hours, Fox says, she had received several hundred replies, pouring in faster than she could retweet them. [Editor's note: These replies appear without attribution to protect the privacy of users who did not anticipate that they would be quoted.]
@steenfox I was wearing a Grumpy Carebear Tshirt, with jean shorts…it was a male relative…(okay to RT)
@steenfox Assaulted twice. At age 15: jean capris, loose red baby tee, flip flops. At age 18: jeans, university t-shirt, sneakers. Can RT.
@steenfox I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans and a cap advertising the Beatles. You can RT
@steenfox I was wearing a brown Garanimals-type shirt w/green frogs on it, a brown fringe jacket, Wranglers and B. Brown loafers. 6. OKRT
@steenfox The first time? I was 8. I had on a sweater and jeans. The 2nd, work clothes: dress pants and a button up blouse
@steenfox 1st of multiple times by the same family member was at 7…wearing pajamas. 2nd time I was 12…sweatpants and tee…youth pastor
@steenfox 10 wearing pjs molested by a "family friend"….16 wearing jeans, black hoody, and nikes
@steenfoxTerry bicolor short set. It was my favorite. I had matching jellies. There were two of them. The oldest was 12. I was 6. RT away.
@steenfox 8yrs old at after school tutoring sessions so in school uniform - below-the-knee short sleeved dress. You can RT
"I really hope that this opens people's minds that what you are wearing has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are assaulted," said Fox.
Based on the reactions, it's safe to say the organic, frustration-fueled awareness campaign did just that.
The discussion was moving in a way even its creator didn't expect. "It's just regular, everyday people that these things have happened to," she said. "It's amazing how so many people remember exactly what they had on. They remember what it smelled like in the house, they remember what they ate. I didn't know that other people had those experiences, because I hadn't asked."
Fox, who reported receiving replies from users as far away as Belfast, Northern Ireland, representing a wide swath of ethnicities and ages, insists that when it comes to the impact of sexual-assault survivors' stories, "This is not a 'black Twitter' thing at all. This is a global issue. But people need to understand that we do start powerful discussions, and this is an example of that."
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.