Still from Stockholm Forum for Gender Equality.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Opens Up About Sexual Assault & Discusses the #MeToo Movement

The writer revealed her own experience, and spoke about challenging the culture of silence around sexual harassment.

Renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, revealed that she was sexually assaulted at the age of 17 in Lagos by "a big man in the media," while trying to get support for the publication of her first book.

The writer spoke about the experience in detail during her keynote address at the Stockholm Forum for Gender Equality on earlier this week, revealing how her assaulter was friendly at first, praising her intelligence and complimenting her on having written a book at such a young age, before proceeding to take advantage of her:

He was pleasant, avuncular, warm, and then he got up from his desk and walked around to where I was seated and stood behind me, and in a move that was as swift as it was shocking he slipped his hand under my button down shirt, under my bra and squeezed my breast. I was so taken aback that I did nothing for seconds. Then I pushed his hand away but gently, nicely, because I didn't want to offend him."

She spoke of the emotional and physical contempt she felt following the assault, and described how the unbalanced power dynamics that existed between the two of them led her to continue to interact with him in order to gain backing for her book.

Later that day I broke into a rash on my chest, my neck, my face. As thought my body were recoiling. As though my body were saying what my lips had not said. I felt a deep loathing for that man and for what he did.

I felt as if I didn't matter, as if my body existed merely as a thing to be done with as he wanted, yet I told no one about it and I kept talking to him, being polite, hoping he would help with my book."

She went on to discusses the role of storytelling in helping people fully understand the implications of sexual harassment, harmful media coverage, the sexist nature of domesticity and how, at a young age, her observations about gender inequality led her to become a feminist "long before she knew what the word meant."

You can watch Adichie's full speech below, starting around the 3:44:40 mark.

Adichie is a vocal advocate of the #MeToo movement, which is steadily gaining traction on the continent as more and more women share their experiences and speak out against the prevalence of sexual assault. The author was recently on CNN, where she spoke about the movement, feminism, and changing the culture of silence around sexual assault.

"It's simply to say, 'this is happening,' it happens to most women, it's not unusual. I don't think I'm remarkable. But I wanted to use [my speech] to talk about why we don't talk about it. The thing about social conditioning that women go through that makes them reluctant to talk about these experiences."

See the full segment below.


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Photo by Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez

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