Welcome to Part 2 of our February 2024 Inspirational Interview with Larysa Denysenko.
Larysa Denysenko is a writer, lawyer, and human rights defender who has authored more than 20 books for adults and children. She was born in Kyiv in 1973 and works on the topic of war sexual crimes and in the fields of criminal justice and the protection of children’s and women’s rights. She has won a Supreme Court award “for loyalty to the law.” In Kyiv, in March 2022, she wrote the children’s book Children of the Air-Raid Siren, which was published by Vydavnytvo in July 2022. It is an advocacy book directed at the protection of Ukrainian children from the Russian occupiers.
In this part of the interview, Larysa talks about the importance of journalists respecting VAW survivors when telling their stories and her intention to seek justice for people who have experienced conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine.
Part one of Larysa’s interview was published on 4 February 2024.
All photos are courtesy of Larysa Denysenko.
6. What would your advice be to the anti-VAW activists working in the media as journalists, editors, and producers in other parts of the world who wish to push for the media in their country or region to treat interviews with VAW survivors with appropriate sensitivity and to report about VAW in an accurate and informed way?
Do not appropriate a person’s story. Don’t treat trauma and war crime like a Netflix series. The life of the person who trusted you is more important than the needs of your audience. The audience tomorrow will be horrified by something else, or will be distracted by something funny, and a person will continue to live in a struggle with her own fear and informational influence on her life.
Journalism is a creative sphere, the sphere of language and communication. I am sure that people of this profession can find a decent tone, an interesting style, an appropriate presentation of any complex story with respect for the person.
7. One of the keys to eradicating VAW is to get men and boys on board efforts to do so. What do you think are the most effective ways of galvanising men and boys to help to end VAW?
Men are often offended and do not like it when they are associated with rapists. They take offense at the statistics and deny their involvement in sexual crimes: we are not like that, don’t make us rapists. In my opinion, a fairer response would be to listen to the problem, and to understand that statistics do not accuse, but point to reality. And to think about what can be done with those men who create these statistics with their violent actions. Think about sex education, talk about sexual consent, realise the seriousness of sexism, and encourage companies to end discrimination at work.
8. Tell us about your plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?
After the occupiers appeared a couple of kilometres from my home in Kyiv, rockets were shot down near the house and it was scary. After the torture, murder, rape, and forced deportations the occupiers inflicted on my people, I lost my vision of the future. This was terrible. I invented a Ukrainian word for this condition. I am not sure that I can translate it into English. However, professionally, I want to make every effort to make punishment for sexual violence and deportation of Ukrainian children a reality for the entire Russian command. Personally for Putin, I will do everything in my power to ensure that as many of these war criminals are punished as possible.
I still have to, although I don’t really want to, write a book of testimonies of women, girls, and boys who survived sexual violence. I know the title: “Our Testimony is a Long-range Weapon.” However, I’m not sure I’ll write this. Psychologically it is not easy. I want to develop a legal culture course for high school, sex education courses. But for this I need a more peaceful life.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support your efforts to stop VAW?
First, to notice and not silence violence. Talk about why violence is a bad idea for everyone, not just women and girls. Create advocacy organisations, join existing ones. Young people instill optimism in me with their involvement in social issues and ecology, but they should also perceive politics as a territory where their voices and influence are important. Talk to them about cool women and girls to them and motivate them for leadership.
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
We must stop dividing the world into weak and strong. We have to create a society of respect for people, but realise that we are all different. Human evolution, in contrast to the evolution inherent in the animal world, should create equal conditions of access to all the benefits of civilisation, affirm peace and not wage wars, and respect diversity. A person is one of the most interesting worlds, you cannot destroy it; it is much more interesting to develop, observe, co-create. Just be a better version of yourself.