Xianzi (https://wan.or.jp/article/show/10627) kindly wrote an original article for WAN in which she expressed her feelings about the whole experience.
When I came forward in 2018 to speak out about being sexually harassed by CCTV host Zhu Jun, I had no idea that I would be the plaintiff in a four-year sexual harassment lawsuit, and that the Metoo movement I was a part of would profoundly and radically change the gender consciousness of young Chinese women in the years to come.
For me, the biggest reason for speaking out about my experience of being sexually harassed was because the Metoo movement on Chinese social networks at the time had brought countless victims of sexual assault forward to speak out about their experiences, and my female friend wrote in an article about her past of being raped by an acquaintance, and I knew that in a sexually conservative society where women can be shamed for losing their so-called chastity, her courage shook me. Subconsciously, I wanted to speak out about what had happened to me and tell her it was because I had been encouraged by her. I wanted her to know that courage has an echo and I hoped my response would be comforting to her.
After speaking out about the sexual harassment, I entered into a lengthy judicial proceeding. My civil lawsuit against Zhu Jun is in fact a continuation of the case I reported four years ago - I went to the police station the day after I experienced Zhu Jun's sexual harassment in 2014, accompanied by a university teacher. However, after initially launching an investigation, the public security officials went to Wuhan a few days after I reported the incident and found my parents, asking them to promise that I would not tell anyone about the incident, and in that year, at the age of only 21, I quickly gave up on reporting the incident.
For me, the biggest blow in the sexual harassment incident that happened in 2014 came from the persuasion I received from public security officials, who told me that Zhu Jun was a celebrity and that speaking out about what happened to me would disappoint the viewers who liked him and bring shame to CCTV. The subtext of the persuasion was that because I was a nobody, my feelings and my experience were unimportant.Experiencing sexual harassment is degrading to the victim's character; it means that I am seen by the other person as a weakling who can be violated at will. Being discouraged from reporting it is a second degradation, which means that I am not entitled to tell the truth about what happened to me. I was forced into silence, and the right to speak and remember did not belong to me.
In 2018, all those victims who came forward, those bloody sufferings, gave me courage and motivation. I didn't sue Zhu Jun for the purpose of an apology or compensation from the other side, I didn't care about his apology. I just want to prove that I should be equal compared to anyone, that I am qualified to speak out about what happened to my body, and that I am qualified to defend my memory, because my memory is the confirmation of my life's existence.
From the time I filed my lawsuit in 2018 to the final judgment in 2023, my lawsuit against Zhu Jun lasted close to five years and I lost my case. Throughout the lawsuit, the court once again told me that I was unimportant and that I could not win. The dress that was taken by the public security for identification back then was nowhere to be found, the surveillance video from the hallway outside the dressing room was not produced, the court refused to hold a public hearing, and Zhu Jun did not show up once in the three court sessions. When Zhu Jun did not appear in court, I, as the plaintiff and the victim, was the one who was tried by the court: Zhu Jun's lawyer insulted me for being delusional, the judge reprimanded my lawyer. I went through three court sessions and more than twenty hours of trial, and finally heard the judge, who did not conduct any investigation, announce that I had lost because of insufficient evidence.
Every time the trial started and I sat in the courtroom from day to night for more than six hours, I had a strong and growing feeling that such a trial was absurd and that the court was not qualified to judge the facts that had happened in my body. I wanted to get out of the courtroom and go outside the courtroom, because there were my supporters who came from all over the country, risking their lives again and again, waiting for me outside the courtroom from day to night while avoiding police harassment. I belonged there, I belonged to them, and in them the harm I had suffered was a precious truth, and we had fought together for so many years that the fight itself became the only thing we had: to leave the women's resistance and questioning in history, along with the frustration and hurt.
Like a trickle of water that becomes a river, I lost my case in the judicial process, but the rewards happened outside of the courtroom: I became friends with and supported countless supporters of the Metoo movement as a victim of sexual assault. This is what makes the Metoo movement so special and precious: it is a movement driven by emotional connections, and because women's emotional connections cannot be broken, the movement will not stop.
In the beginning, this connection was made between victims. Due to a lack of resources, victims in the Chinese Metoo movement often had to take on the work of helpers. When victims wanted to reach out for help, they didn't know who they could trust, and more than that, they were afraid of experiencing stigma and secondary victimization; other victims were the only people they could trust. In this way, victims connect and support each other on social media platforms, sharing legal and media resources and supporting each other.
At the first session of my case, all of the dozen or so victims I had contacted came together to record a video that featured female, male, and homosexual victims. What this video was about was not just support for my case, but to show the public that all cases of sexual harassment are not isolated, and that victims experience sexual harassment not because of bad luck, but because of structural inequalities in society. The inequality should be changed, and the government, the justice system, and every bystander are all responsible. The victims who have come forward in the Metoo movement have dignity, and they are not just hoping for victory in individual cases, but trying to expose their trauma in exchange for social progress.
From the first trial where hundreds of supporters waited outside the courthouse with signs, to the two subsequent trials where less than a hundred supporters were able to come because of censorship and threats, the coldness outside the courtroom reflected the repression and hardships encountered by the women's rights movement in China. Yet the fact that people were willing to take the escalating risk of coming together from all over the country because of a woman they had never met was a miracle, and something that hadn't happened in China for years.
At the first court session, my supporters held up a sign that said, “Ask history for answers”. I and Chinese feminists believe that this trial is not a test of the victims, but a test of the courts and the judicial process. Whether the justice system is ready to protect women and uphold justice, this verdict will be the answer recorded in history.
To the disappointment of my supporters and the celebration of my opponents, my case was lost. At the second session of the first trial, before I had even walked out of the courtroom, the court was already eager to publish the official news of my defeat on social networks, which was undoubtedly a public humiliation of me, humiliation designed to make other victims see that those who resist will be punished and thus no longer dare to speak out.
Five years have passed since the Metoo movement took place in 2018, and the demands of feminists and victims for change in the justice system have not really been answered in the system. This frustrating result is the answer I got from going through litigation. From the police department, to the courts, my legal team and I exhausted all judicial remedies and put forth every possible effort. In the darkest of times, our motivation to persevere was to document the answers, because litigation itself is a challenge to the justice system, and only by persevering to the very end can we say we got the final answer." Only by enduring the greatest pain can one prove that the feminists of this era have done their best, but the current justice system still refuses to provide help to victims.
In 2018, China's judicial system made a change to allow victims to file civil lawsuits for sexual harassment as a cause of action. At the time, we saw this as an achievement for the Metoo movement. However, when one victim after another walked into the courtroom and found that judges lacked understanding of the complexities of sexual harassment cases and that the courts were not going to take on the responsibility of investigating the truth, we realized that the push for laws did not necessarily mean progress for society, but instead took back the right of victims to tell their physical experiences and recount their memories into the hands of the government. From then on, only the courts were qualified to judge the veracity of a woman's experience, and the Metoo movement went from being a social movement that pointed out the voices of structural injustice to one in which victims had to enter the justice system to experience secondary victimization and seek the approval of judges. If the Metoo movement allowed victims to discover the power that voice itself has, the justice system sought to take away the most important weapon victims have.
The failure of the Metoo movement to bring about real change in the external environment for women in China seems to be a frustrating truth. But the truth itself is powerful, and the frustrated lawsuits have made young women in China realize that a justice system that does not respect women does not have the power to judge them. In an era where women are still not trusted, it is self-empowering for women to believe in the legitimacy of their own words and that their life experiences and memories should not be defined by others.
The Metoo movement made young Chinese women aware of their situation, which mobilized young Chinese women to join the feminist movement in a more militant and angry manner, so that despite the censorship and frustration, the feminist movement did not disappear. When one wonders why young women in China are so passionate about the feminist movement, it is the evidence of injustice and the anger that this injustice provokes that gives women the right and motivation to continue to ask questions.
For many, losing a lawsuit seems like a complete failure, but for me, even a failed lawsuit is the result of my joint efforts with Chinese feminists. Throughout the five years of litigation, countless feminists provided me with invaluable help: both psychological comfort and offline risk support. Losing this case was the best result I have ever fought for in the feminist community, because there were countless moments in between when I wanted to give up and could have, and it was the trust and support among women that kept me going to fight for a question and answer that will remain in history. This has been the best result we could have done.
From the time I filed the case in 2014 to the time I sued in 2018, I had gone from 21 to 30 by the end of this lawsuit, and even after the trial, the judge advised me to go live my own life. But I needed confirmation that I was an equal and dignified human being, which was a prerequisite for me to go live my own life. When I went through all this and finally came to the moment of the judge's decision, I could finally tell myself that I had proven that my body belonged completely to me, that my words and memories should not be rewritten by anyone, and I calmly told the judge in court that you do not naturally have the power to judge my body and memories.
I know many people think the process of losing a case is meaningless, but I want to say that I know that it was the most important and precious moment of my life, the moment that took all my efforts to win.
Japanese version: https://wan.or.jp/article/show/10654