The “Me Too” movement — which destigmatizes coming forward for victims of sexual harassment and assault, triggered by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein — might be finding momentum in China.
On November 30, Hong Kong star athlete Vera Lui Lai-yiu 吕丽瑶, who in September won gold at the 60m hurdles at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat and is known as the “queen of hurdling” among locals, posted to her Facebook page her story of being sexually assaulted by a former coach 10 years ago. (South China Morning Post has a translation here.)
The post was published soon past Lui’s 23rd birthday at midnight, accompanied by a photo of her holding a card that reads “#METOO,” with her initials LLY below. Inspired by the case of Taiwanese author Elizabeth Lin Yi-han 林奕含, a sexual abuse victim who ended her life in April after years of depression, and American gymnast McKayla Maroney, who said she was molested by her team doctor at age 13, Lui wrote that she “finally found the courage to tell the truth.”
In the post, Lui said that about 10 years ago, when she was 13 or 14 years old, she was instructed by a coach who appeared to be trustworthy enough to meet with for afternoon tea or lunch from time to time. But a year after their initial meeting, on a Saturday afternoon, Lui received a call from the coach, who suggested that he give Lui a massage at his home to help her relax her muscles. Without much thought, Lui accepted the invitation and soon found herself lying on a bed with her pants off.
“I trusted him, as I had never thought he would do anything despicable to his students,” Lui wrote. “Then he went on with his so-called ‘massage.’ In the end, he took off my jeans and my underpants and touched my private parts.”
Afterwards, Lui remained in touch with the coach for a few years, keeping the incident a secret. But though Lui tried to convince herself that nothing really happened, she couldn’t help but recoil from the coach every time he approached. “As a result, I became the subject of gossip, with people criticizing me for being rude and ungrateful,” she wrote.
Lui said she eventually made up her mind to tell the truth because she wants to “increase public awareness of sexual assault against children,” to “encourage victims to bravely speak up,” and to “let the public understand that sex is not an embarrassing, shameful, or taboo subject.” Lui also said that the relief from speaking out is a birthday gift for herself. At the end of her post, she included contact information for two organizations that help victims of sexual abuse.
Although Lui didn’t reveal the coach’s name, the South China Morning Post reports that an investigation has been launched and that the offender has been suspended. Lui’s post also prompted Ma Fung-kwok 马逢国, the city’s legislator representing the sports sector, to expose an anonymous letter accusing a coach at a jockey club of sexual assault. The club later confirmed the allegation and fired the riding instructor.
Lui’s post has received more than 3,500 comments on Facebook and been shared more than 6,500 times so far. One typical comment reads, “Support you and appreciate your bravery, hope you get out of it and continue to bring medals to Hong Kong!”