There are many ways to bear witness. Seeing is a political act. When you see, you affect what is being seen, and it affects you. What we bring into the act of witnessing is the politics that we bring into situation.
How do you witness violence against women? Do you witness it as a spectator, interested only to be shocked, bored or entertained? Or do you witness it as a person engaged in creating a more just and equal world that is free from violence against women?
This is the key difference between documenting violence and forwarding violence. How we locate ourselves in the act of violence, and question our role in perpetuating or ending such violence. And the action we take after we witness.
Today we are repeating the call for you to take a stand, and make a commitment to stop the spread of images and content that continues to perpetuate violence.
In Canada a teenager was arrested for distributing photos and a video of a sexual assault of a 16-year old girl. In South Africa, a video that depicts the alleged rape of young girl by two boys in her school is being distributed via cellphone and through the internet. The video was recorded on a cellphones by someone who was watching. These are not isolated incidents.
In many countries the filming and distribution of images such as these is a criminal offence. It must be – those who are filming are not doing anything to prevent the violence. As ‘spectators’ they are implicated in the assault themselves. But what of those who receive and forward the images and videos, what is their role in the continuation and replication of the violence committed? How are they implicated in the violence? What does the sharing of this material mean for the victim who has to live with the knowledge that her violation and trauma, is being distributed, replicated and viewed by others?
How many times have you received forwarded message that contains photographs or a video of someone being violated or humiliated? What do you do with it? Do you reflect on your role and power to stop the violence? If you pass it on, will it perpetuate the harm? Can you stop its spread by pressing delete?
Many people think that it is ok to forward material like this. They argue that the damage is already done and that they are merely doing what everyone else has done already by sharing it. But every act of passing it on, and forwarding the message, is another act of violence.
You have the power to stop the spread. Take a stand. Don’t forward.
- The violence stops with you. Make a commitment and take the pledge by signing on here.
- I take the pledge of non-violence.
- I will NOT forward any form of message, video or photograph of someone being violated or humiliated.
- I will NOT forward any form of message, video or photograph that violates another person's right to privacy.
- I WILL stand up against violence against women.
- I WILL stop the violence.
2. Make it known
- Wear your pledge as a badge today.
- Right click and save the image for the badge or download them as a .pdf set. You can also add your own text to the blank badge that spells out your pledge or commitment.
- Change your display picture or avatar as a commitment to this pledge and link it to today's action.
- Or print it out, make your badge and wear it! You can make badges out of many things:
- The "traditional" button badge is usually a metal button with a design on top and a pin behind it. If you have one of those, you can recycle an old button badge by pasting a new design over it (maybe one that sells a product or brand that you got free from somewhere?).
- You can also make one out of bottle caps. Glue a piece of paper with a new design over the top, and stick a safety pin behind using a glue gun or tape. If you want it to last a bit longer, you can varnish over the design, or stick clear cellophane tape over it.
- Or make it out of cloth. Sew two pieces of fabric together - thick ones are better, such as felt. Stich on your design or draw it out with a water-proof marker, and stick your safety pin on the other side.
- Or simply cut out a circle from an old box or used milk carton. Glue your design over one side and stick a safety pin on the other using cellophane tape.
- If you have other brilliant D.I.Y. (do it yourself) ideas on how to make a badge, share it as a comment on this page :)
- Put it on and start a conversation!
3. Grow the action
- Make 10 badges and print 10 copies of this action. Take it with you to work, to school, to the market or the mall.
- When someone asks you about your pledge, share the action, and invite them to make the same commitment.
- Collectively create a culture of communication that respects privacy and rejects violence.
- Write a blog post about your action. Or share it as a comment on this page.
Don't forward violence. Instead, disseminate action and calls to stop violence against women. Take a stand!