When Snapchat introduced its filters, no one could have predicted the enthusiasm that followed. But while most of its uses have been somewhat frivolous, even youthful, till now, in a wonderful turn of events, a journalist in India, Omar Yusuf, has found a new way for the platform to be used by getting survivors of sexual assault to share their stories. Young survivors of sexual assault are often vilified by society, so Omar found a way for them to use a variety of virtual masks so that the survivors could conceal their identity. While covering the Climb Against Sexual Abuse, Omar got the idea to film the event and young women on his own so they could share their stories while remaining anonymous. In a report to CBC, Omar said “I initially built a bond with them, using the funny filters on myself first and then with them, think that warmed them up. On a very basic level, the sexual abuse survivors were empowered to make a decision as to which filters they were going to use to cover their face. And that also gave them a sense that they could trust me as a filmmaker”
The lack of big broadcast cameras and intimate nature of the platform allowed the women to be more candid. One woman adds “I was five years old when it happened,” while another added that she was never let out of home and tortured there. “Recording with a mask gave them the sense of legitimacy and security that I wasn’t going to be able to show their face, as opposed to trusting a journalist saying ‘yes, we will blur you afterwards’,” he said, “so they felt empowered and in control of the narrative,” adds Omar in Journalism UK. He continued “Stigma around sexual violence is such a big issue, especially in India where women are frequently accused of lying, and now you get to see a young woman tell her story for herself, but with all of her emotions.”
Over 24,923 rapes or sexual molestations occurred in India in 2013, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The Times of India reported that in 2015 over 800 cases of sexual abuse were reported in just the first two months of the year. It’s suggested that out of all the reported cases 98% were committed by someone the victim knew. The app has found a way to humanise these stories and let survivors speak with agency, without fear of retaliation.
To watch the video, click here.
Feature Image Courtesy of Self
Words: Divija Mohan