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Wave of Manitoba women come forward on social media about sexual assault



When Chloe Giesbrecht shared the story of her sexual assault on Twitter, she felt like she was finally closing a dark chapter of her life.

“It was like posting it was hacking the eight year trauma away,” she said.

In the post, Giesbrecht describes being sexually assaulted by a young man in 2012 when she was 16, and how it left her feeling like “a part of me was gone.”

“My whole identity was stripped and it took years to get back,” she wrote.

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“I’m not staying silent anymore.”

In a phenomenon resembling the #MeToo movement, Giesbrecht is one of hundreds of Manitoba women to share allegations of sexual violence, sexual assault and domestic abuse through social media in the last month.

The stories led to an Instagram account sharing dozens of anonymous stories from women, where many named the accused publicly. A Reddit thread on the topic attracted nearly 300 comments in June.

Giesbrecht said she decided to publish her story after seeing other women do the same. She said it felt like there was a network of support online.

“It was like a domino effect. It was like everyone was just getting this constant support,” she said.


Chloe Giesbrecht shared the story of her sexual assault on Twitter a few weeks ago. She said it felt like closing a negative chapter in her life. (Submitted by Chloe Giesbrecht )


Writing out what she says happened to her was a way to release it, and to move past it, she said.

Natalya Jones also shared the story of her 2018 sexual assault on Twitter. She, too, said she felt empowered by seeing other women coming forward.

“The bravery is kind of contagious. When you see one woman who shares a similar story to you, you feel like your story is important and it does need to be shared.”

Jones says she has a lot of fear in her life as a result of her sexual assault. Over two years later, she’s still afraid of running into the man she says assaulted her and what might happen if she did.


Jones shared her story on Twitter at the beginning of July. (Natalya Jones/Twitter)


But she doesn’t have a lot of faith in the police or justice system to hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable, and feels like women coming forward on social media is another form of justice.

“They don’t even necessarily need to go to jail but just the fact that some consequences are being paid feels good in my opinion,” she said.

“It feels good to know that the victims are not the only ones who had to pay a price for what happened to them.”

Both Jones and Giesbrecht said they didn’t pursue criminal charges against the men they say assaulted them. Giesbrecht said she and her father did go to police, but because it happened to her at such a young age, she didn’t want to be named in an investigation and didn’t pursue it any further. She said she didn’t hear from police after that.

“I didn’t want them to do anything about it because I was so scared to … just have the backlash of it.”

Jones said she didn’t want to go to police at the time of her assault because she felt that even if they laid charges, it would be a long, arduous court process that may not even result in a conviction.

“And let’s say I do win, what’s the most what’s going to happen to him? Like a few months in jail? Like maybe some community service? I just feel like violence toward women is not taken seriously.”

Instagram account shares dozens of stories anonymously

So many stories started emerging online that an Instagram account, Safe Space Winnipeg, was created to allow women to share them anonymously.


The account SafeSpaceWpg shared dozens of women’s stories, like this one, anonymously. In the last month hundreds of women have taken to social media to speak out about sexual assault and domestic abuse they say they’ve experienced. (SafeSpaceWpg/Instagram)


That account now appears to be defunct, but by July 8, it had posted close to 100 stories and had more than 2,000 followers.

Its organizer, who CBC is not naming because she expressed concerns for her safety, said she created the account to give women an opportunity to share what had happened to them without fear of attacks or abuse.


Dozens of women in Manitoba have been coming forward on social media with allegations of sexual assault in the last month. (Safe Space Wpg/Instagram )


“It’s just providing a safe space letting people know that they’re not alone in this, and bringing to light how common this actually is,” she said.

When CBC News spoke with her at the beginning of July, she said she had lost count of how many messages she had received, but said it was at least 200.

The woman did not respond to requests for comment about what happened to the account by deadline.

Black Lives Matter paves way

A similar movement has been happening in Quebec, with women taking to Instagram and other social media sites with public accusations of sexual assault.

Kharoll-Ann Souffrant, a PhD student in social work at the University of Ottawa who has studied the #metoo and #beenrapedneverreported movements, said she thinks the anti-racism and anti-police brutality movement that has swept North America has paved the way for other social injustices to be addressed.


Kharoll-Ann Souffrant is a social worker and Ph.D. student who has studied sexual violence against women and the #BeenRapedNeverReported and #MeToo movements. (Submitted by Kharoll-Ann Souffrant)


Victims of sexual assault who choose to share their stories publicly do so for a number of reasons, she said, including trying to protect others, and because they want to feel validated and believed. But ultimately, it’s because they want the violence to stop.

“We have to ask ourselves as a society, why are people coming forward like this and what is the message they are trying to tell us by doing this,” she said.

“What I understand … is, there young people are telling us, you’re not protecting us, so we’re going to protect ourselves, by ourselves.”

Giesbrecht, too, said she feels this movement of women coming forward is part of a larger, universal push for societal change inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s not just women in Winnipeg you know, it’s women all over,” she said.

“It’s crazy, 2020 has just been like one huge movement for changing the way things are.”

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Iran begins construction on nuclear plant: State media




Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions with the U.S. over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and have challenged the country’s theocratic government.

The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.

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The construction site’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed Eslami, head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organization, who first unveiled construction plans for Karoon in April.

Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear facilities.

The announcement of Karoon’s construction came less than two weeks after Iran said it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear program.

Enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.

Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained

In a statement issued by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday, the country’s national security council announced that some 200 people have been killed during the protests, the body’s first official word on the casualties. Last week, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh tallied the death toll at more than 300.

The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a U.S.-based organization that has been closely monitoring the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that 469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed.

Iranian state media also announced Saturday that the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian female rock climber who competed abroad with her hair untied, had been demolished. Iran’s official judiciary news agency, Mizan, said the destruction of her brother’s home was due to its “unauthorized construction and use of land” and that demolition took place months before Rekabi competed. Antigovernment activists say it was a targeted demolition.

Rekabi became a symbol of the antigovernment movement in October after competing in a rock climbing competition in South Korea without wearing a mandatory headscarf required of female athletes from the Islamic Republic. In an Instagram post the following day, Rekabi described her not wearing a hijab as “unintentional,” however it remains unclear whether she wrote the post or what condition she was in at the time.

Separately, the U.S. Navy said Saturday it intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday attempting to smuggle 50 tons of ammunition and a key component for missiles from Iran to Yemen.

Experts have accused the Iranian government of continually conducting Illicit weapons smuggling operations to supply Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The shipments have included rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles. Last month, the U.S. seized 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among fertilizer bags aboard a ship bound for Yemen from Iran.

“This significant interdiction (on Thursday) clearly shows that Iran’s unlawful transfer of lethal aid and destabilizing behavior continues,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Iran on the seizure.

Iran has been the Houthis’ major backer since the rebel force swept down from Yemen’s northern mountains in 2014 and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. In the following year, a Saudi-led coalition armed with U.S. weaponry and intelligence intervened to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power. Since 2014, the United Nations has enforced an arms embargo prohibiting weapons transfers to the Houthis.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal’s terms. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful.

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Spotify Wrapped is a social media sensation. Its impact on artists and listeners is debatable



For some, it’s Christmas. For astronomers, it’s the Winter Solstice. But for literally millions of others, December means something different — for them, it’s Spotify Wrapped month.

The juggernaut campaign, currently in its sixth officially branded year, packages Spotify users’ listening statistics, and musicians’ streaming numbers in easily shareable panes. For some music fans, it has come to partially define the holiday season.

It takes over social media for at least a few days after its Dec. 1 premiere, and has grown big enough that other streaming giants have aped it themselves, with both YouTube and Apple Music recently coming out with their own versions.

What began as a small side project has exploded into what is essentially a multi-million dollar ad campaign. The tangible impact of Wrapped on listener statistics is still debatable; as is how much the project boosts Spotify itself, versus the benefit it provides artists.

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It’s also unclear why users are so enamoured with the idea of having their private data packaged and sold back to them. One digital rights advocacy group described Wrapped as a “business model … based on surveillance” in a recent Wired magazine article.

Jem Aswad, deputy music editor of Variety, said the campaign’s real benefit to Spotify is difficult to measure. In a cluttered field of year-end critics’ polls and retrospective reviews, it’s almost impossible to tease out what had the most impact — despite the fact that app downloads typically increase in December. Spotify downloads jumped by 21 per cent that month in 2020, according to marketing company MoEngage.

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That’s no small feat for one of the biggest music streaming platforms on Earth.

Of roughly 525 million subscribers to music streaming services globally, Spotify holds a market share of about 30 per cent, according to Midia Research, an entertainment consultancy.

Increasing its brand recognition through the Spotify Wrapped campaign is “catnip” for the streaming service and its staff, Aswad said.

The real purpose of Wrapped is users sharing screenshots of the lists provided to them, which prominently includes the Spotify logo, he said. “Because it’s both endorsing Spotify in a sort of sidelong way, and it really makes the thing more popular.”

‘It is a brilliant use of social media’

But the most powerful aspect is that Wrapped works as both a commercial and a service, he said, helping the promotion gain user interest.

“The reason that Wrapped and things like it have become the phenomenon that they have …  is it’s both about the music and the person,” he said “It’s a reflection. It is a brilliant use of social media — or the tactics of social media — to enable people to say something about themselves.”

The fact that this kind of project works at all is still something of a mystery to some observers. Concerns over online tracking are simmering. Apple allowed users to turn it off for certain apps earlier this year — threatening Facebook’s entire business strategy — so it seems odd that a feature built on sharing personal data would take off.

But Kimeko McCoy, an Atlanta-based freelance journalist and digital marketer, said this trend can help stoke desire.

“There’s a hunger, if you’ll put it that way, for people: ‘If you’re going to use my data, make it worth my while,'” she said. “And it seems that’s kind of what Spotify has hit the nail on the head with.”

The knock-on though, leads to more than just a grassroots advertising campaign. As Spotify users share their Wrapped lists and potentially drum up desire for the only app that currently offers such detailed analytics, some artists says it drowns out valid criticism of how the streaming service remunerates them.

“Each year I wonder why Spotify Wrapped graphics never tell us how much money we made from Spotify — in comparison to how much revenue our music generated for the platform,” Canadian rapper Masia One wrote in a Facebook post, sharing her own modified version of the trend.

“This year, I re-jigged my Spotify Wrapped to reflect the numbers that effect my life and sustainability as a songwriter and artist.”

American labour group Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) took a similar stance, creating a parallel campaign — “Spotify Unwrapped” — to highlight the low pay artists receive for streams on the app.

As for the immediate effect Wrapped has for artists, answers run the gamut. Aswad said big-name musicians with billions of streams for the year like Taylor Swift or The Weeknd would likely see an observable benefit from tens of thousands of posts sharing their music.

Meanwhile Ralph, a singer-songwriter from Toronto, who racked up 5.7 million streams this year, said for her Wrapped initially did more harm than good. Beginning as a musician, seeing peers post their streaming numbers at the end of the year turned their careers into a very public competition — one she worried she was losing.

“It was really hard for me, actually. I actually had to put my phone down,” she said. As her career has grown, however, she said she’s come to appreciate the opportunity to share her results and celebrate other artists.

Vancouver musician bbno$ performs at the 2022 Juno Awards in Toronto. (CARAS/iPhoto)

And then there’s the artists in between — like Vancouver’s bbno$, whose earworms Lalala and Edamame helped him bring in nearly 550 million streams this year. In his case, Wrapped added a very noticeable cherry on top.

Edamame was streaming at like, let’s say like 270 a day, and yesterday did like 400,” he said the day after Spotify Wrapped’s launch. “For no reason really. It’s just people are reminded again that I listened to bbno$ all year, so let’s just go back and listen to him again.”

Despite the fact Spotify allegedly pays an industry-low of under half a cent per stream, he said the trade-off is worth it. During the pandemic, one of the most difficult times for musicians to make a career, he said any service that can help artists keep going is worthwhile. As is any campaign, like Wrapped, that helps the service to thrive, he added.

“Who cares? It’s still there,” he said, pointing to the streaming service as his saving grace during the loss of touring income brought on by the pandemic. “I have a career out of literally nothingness. And God bless Spotify at the same time … Like, do I think there could be more money? Absolutely. But right now, I’m fine.”

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