Domestic Violence and Social Media

Social media has penetrated many levels of society and undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in influencing minds for both the positive and the negative. One sensitive area of social media and the impact of its role is domestic violence. Domestic violence can be either physical, verbal or emotional. We hear and see, almost every other day stories of victim abuse being recorded on Facebook Live and images on Snapchat that lead law enforcement to the perpetrators. Seeing as how social media acts as a bit of a double edged sword, the role of it in domestic abuse is in itself a juxtaposition. Here, we hope to discuss, unbiased, the role and impact of social media on domestic violence and also the kind of support it provides to victims.

Can social media aggravate domestic violence?

The simple answer would be yes. But the real answer is one that needs more investigation. There has definitely been a rise in harassment, cyber enabled domestic violence and online abuse that has affected people irrespective of their gender recently.

One good example is what happened in December 2012 when a woman named Thorlag Agustsdottir discovered a Facebook group “Men are better than women” Thorlag wrote about a horrible image of a young woman, naked, bloodied and tied with chains to some sort of concrete structure displayed on the page. After she wrote about this in outrage her own face altered to appear bloodied was posted with explicit comments. A complaint to Facebook got her the familiar message of the content not violating their community guidelines.

According to Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) crimes that are cyber enabled or make use of the internet, social media and other methods of technology to “humiliate, control and threaten’ women are steadily increasing.

All around the world, including in Sri Lanka, there has been a notable rise in the exposing of private information, non-consensual pornography has definitely seen a rise. We wrote before about the rate of teen pregnancies and online pornography in Sri Lanka in a conversation with Grassrooted, an organization that fights for victims and strives to bring about awareness and justice in their own way.

Why does one use social media for such violent crimes? Be it the psychology that shows fame in posting such content, or the thrill of being categorized as “cool” or “macho”, social media has definitely played a role starting with online stalking to sharing videos of horrible physical abuse and even murder. Perhaps  the internet does not necessarily push the hand of the wrongdoer but the negative influences that can be taken from it and the promise of fame certainly has propelled them.

Can social media help overcome domestic violence and fight abuse?

In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining this case is no exception. If social media and the internet has fuelled the sharing and making of explicit content or negatively influenced users to become aggressive or violent towards others on a psychological level, it has also certainly served as the battleground where victims have taken down their wrongdoers and avenged themselves. The story of how Pakistani women whose lives were changed forever thanks to domestic abuse, managed to redeem themselves and even get justice with the help of social media is one that certainly proves it.

On the other hand, the organisations are working tirelessly with social media to provide a platform of non-judgmental justice, support and understanding for victims while also raising awareness on the matter and calling out to everyone to make a change for the better.

What is the support and outreach for victims like?

The support and outreach for victims on social media is increasing rapidly with more and more users steadily playing a proactive role in raising an outcry via Twitter, Facebook or other apps. It could be a hashtag that goes viral such as #Metoo or #FightlikeKhadija or it could be  Facebook page like Women Without Borders that provides a listening ear and the chance to help others in need through sharing life stories, but the help and the action is certainly there.

Social media is a lot like fire. Man’s good friend when used right and a wildfire ending in devastation if misused. The approach of raising awareness is one that is correct as understanding the situation and inbreeding good qualities in our younger generations is definitely the long term plan to take on.

In a particularly heart-touching Youtube video these young boys are asked to first kiss a girl and then slap her. Their reactions and downright refusal to harm her shows that humanity still might not have lost its way entirely and is only in need of guidance.

There may be hope for us yet.

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