"Increasingly I feel awkward and embarrassed when walking around my city. Most mornings, upon leaving my house, I attract the attention of at least one lecherous motorist, or a pair of wayward builders. When I step out into the open, I am stepping into a man's world."

That's the beginning of a blog post written on Tuesday by Londoner Tabby Kinder, in which she continues, saying: "I must be reserved yet sexual, demure yet demanding, and attractive, without allowing myself to become an exhibit."

She was writing in reaction to the Twitter hashtag #Ididnotreport, launched by the London Feminist website this week. In the past couple of days, it has become something a global confessional for woman (and men) who have been sexually assaulted or abused and decided not to take the matter to police or authorities.

The writer of the blog was responding to a survey done by the mumsnet website of 1600 women, which revealed 10 per cent of respondents had been raped and more than one-third sexually assaulted.

However, 83 per cent of respondents who had been raped or sexually assaulted did not make a report to the police - and London Feminist rightly mused: "I wonder how many others are out there?"

Thus the hash tag was born.

While this might sound flighty, "memey" and thoroughly unscientific to some readers, there's no doubting the sincerity and sadness of the stories shared on #Ididnotreport, with hundreds of women (and some men) describing rapes and abuse by parents, friends, carers and teachers.

And though the women's reasons for not reporting are sometimes quite different, many are a variation on this theme:

"#Ididnotreport the man who date-raped me when I was 19. I did tell mutual friends, who called me a liar."

"#Ididnotreport because reporting the first time ruined my life."

Having been in an emotionally destructive situation where no one would believe me about the other person's behaviour, I know this is fertile soil for insanity and depression. You actually wonder if you're imagining it - or whether you've done something to deserve it.

I am in no way suggesting I know what it's like to be raped, but there are many ways to have your self-esteem shattered, your confidence undermined - and sexual assault must be number one with a bullet.

I have to admit feeling moments of irritation with some posters, who joined the hashtag to say they did not report being screamed at out of cars, or ogled, or whistled at - because I think it diminishes sexual assault to even put it in the same room as a "Hey, ba-beee", from a scaffolder.

But then I'm a bloke and, as I've tried to explain many times on this blog, one of the great challenges of being human is practising empathy, whether it be with another gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, and attempting to see the world through their eyes.

Last night I walked into an underground car park - site of countless movie and TV murders and assaults - saw a group of guys walking towards me, and actually marvelled at how safe I felt; it is almost beyond my comprehension to experience fear in that situation.

However, I'd just given a talk to a large group of women in the establishment upstairs and I stopped to consider what one of them, weighing in at 5' 6" and 60 kilograms, would have felt watching those men approach in concrete tomb, with no one else about?



Wariness, at least?

Suffice it to say, I also have to push myself to imagine how frustrating/demeaning/annoying/upsetting it must be to have knobheads offer unsolicited appraisal of your arse, breasts, dress, "rootability" or lack of it while you walk to work.

As with Kony 2012, I have no doubt there will be many, many naysayers about this hashtag, sneering that it is one more example of how the internet dilutes, simplifies or trivialises a serious subject, but these are different days we live in.

Tabby Kinder wrote on Tuesday: "Twitter has given women a platform to tell the world the things they were too scared to tell their families, friends, or the police."

Ten years ago, I'm not sure how - short of sitting through a doco on rape, or having a friend or relative assaulted - your average man could even begin to comprehend the pervasiveness and horror of rape.

Now all he has to do is visit this hashtag and read.

I encourage you all to do so.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.