The #JadaPose trend which first appeared on social media in June has called attention to the aspects of youth and online culture which shockingly allowed for a teenage victim of sexual assault to be ridiculed. Now Jada and her supporters have decided to fight back, taking an active stance against sexual assault, troll culture and perceptions of rape
Imagine if you were the victim of a sexual assault. Now imagine if there were 30,000 witnesses who far from helping, chose to mock and humiliate you publicly.
This is precisely what happened to sixteen-year-old Jada, a teenager who recently became an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons. The Houston girl was alerted to the fact that she had been assaulted only when photographs and videos of the crime surfaced on social media.
Perhaps unbelievably, her assault went viral.
Drugged and Assaulted
Jada, who believes her drink was spiked, remembers little of the evening in question except that she woke up at a friend’s house the next day with her clothing in disarray.
Later that week she received a series of photographs via text message.
One showed her unconscious and fully clothed on a bed. Another showed her still unconscious, naked and sprawled on the floor, apparently being raped. This was the image which quickly spread across social media sites; the same photo in which she was ridiculed and imitated under the #JadaPose hashtag.
She and her mother reported the crime on June 22 and it is currently under investigation by the police. However, in the world of social media, it is Jada herself who has been subject to the most scrutiny as well as her morality and that of her mother. The fact that Jada was at a party where alcohol was being served appears to be judged as the more serious crime.
Jada has since been subject to the very worst sort of bullying. Her alleged assailant even published a series of tweets branding her a “snitch”.
The fact that Jada is a minor who was assaulted seems to be held in little regard by those responsible for harassing her. Much less the fact that photographing her and distributing those photographs technically constitutes child pornography.
The vulnerable female is no longer simply a target for sexual assault; in modern media the sexually assaulted female has evolved into a target for hatred and a figure of fun. The #JadaPose hashtag is the latest in a series of alarming online trends. It involves the subject of the photo posted online posing as if unconscious, stripped from the waist down with a drink in hand. At the time of going to press, the hashtag has been used in excess of 30,000 times by Americans.
Blaming the Victim
The Rape, Abuse, and National Incest Network (RAINN) estimates that only 40 per cent of rapes that are ever actually reported. Among those crimes which are dealt with by the police, only three per cent of perpetrators are given jail time. Even then, jail time is often extremely limited.
How can such statistics be improved upon when cases like Jada’s prove that if anything, rape, sexual assault and the plight of the victim are being taken less and less seriously?
It’s one of the most vicious cycles in existence. If women know that their trauma is going to be an ongoing affair, or worse that they may be made fun of for what happened to them, how many are going to make the decision to report instances of sexual assault?
What Jada’s ordeal reveals to us about social media is nothing short of disturbing. Most of us will be aware of the clichés and realities of modern rape narratives. As soon as a female wears anything which can be classed as sexually provocative (a term which is being used to cover an increasingly broad range of fashions) or is seen to have a drink in her hand, the seriousness of any crime which may have been committed against her is instantly diminished.
Social media takes this one horrifying step further, taking any conceivable ‘incorrect behaviour’ on the part of the female as carte blanche to not only ignore the crime but to actually shame the victim. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of such crimes are seldom subject to any mocking whatsoever.
Any rational person can see that this is an injustice. As Jada said in an interview with Houston’s KHOU, “I had no control … I didn’t tell anyone to take my clothes off and do what they did to me.”
Sites like Twitter and Facebook are wonderful because they allow us to share information very quickly. Yet social media’s greatest strength has also become its greatest weakness as it is repeatedly used as a weapon to shame and humiliate the vulnerable. No one is safe but women and their sexuality are by far the easiest targets. Whether that sexuality is wielded by the female in question or assigned to her by force is of little consequence.
In this particular case, sexual violence is not only being normalized by social media, it is actually being glorified.
Crimes Upon Crimes
It is important to ask ourselves many questions regarding what bullies get from treating a person in such a way. What can be so wrong with a young man’s life that to make it better he rapes? Why did the onlookers at the party feel compelled not only to allow the assault on Jada, not only to record it, but to spread the proof across social media?
In the case of Jada’s attacker and those who collaborated with him to bring her down online, is dissemination akin to insemination? In both cases the seed is potent.
And why did so many people laugh at Jada when the authentic response should be to scream?
Social media is something many of us rely on and love. What can be done to stop it being used for evil? Most importantly, how can we tackle such warped views of rape in young people?
Reviewing the Rules of Censorship
The rules of censorship on social media need to be far more stringent. Why is there a #FreeTheNipple campaign on Twitter in reaction to social media’s ban on the topless female if our young people cannot be protected where it counts? Why is a photograph of someone recreating an actual instance of rape less offensive than a female nipple?
— FREE THE NIPPLE (@freethenipple) July 2, 2014
Charlyann Caulfield, one of Jada’s online supporters, told us of her horror when she learned of the young woman’s situation: “You can’t get away with pictures of breast-feeding mothers but rape footage is apparently acceptable light entertainment. That, combined with the surge of #JadaPose made me feel truly hated as a woman. I saw it and cried. Multiple people watched that video and laughed. We live in a society that hates women with self-agency so much that it publicly revels in their suffering. It’s terrifying.”
Not everyone is prepared to sit back and watch social media trivialize rape, least of all Jada herself. Appearing on MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily show, she spoke out against her attackers and those who had a hand in her online ordeal. Waiving her right to anonymity, the teenager has since launched her own hashtagging trend on Twitter, #IAmJada.
— Team Ronan Daily (@RonanDaily) July 14, 2014
The internet has yielded an inspiring show of solidarity with a reassuring number of men joining the cause along with a lot of high profile names. As well as #IAmJada, the #JadaPose hashtag has also been subverted. The page has been taken over by Jada’s supporters from the #JadaCounterPose who in posting photos of themselves flexing their muscles like Jada in her original post have redefined the position of the victim.
— Yasmin Aslam (@YasminAslam) July 15, 2014
This is reminiscent of last spring, when a young woman asked rape victims to share what they were wearing when they were assaulted on Twitter under the hashtag #RapeHasNoUniform. Her actions were to stand against the assumption that particular clothes mean the victim is ‘asking for it’.
Jada and her supporters know that when you turn the weapon of your attacker against them (in the case of her online trolls the weapon was the internet itself), it becomes disinvested of its power. By making the subject of her own rape an internet trend she has highlighted her attackers and the crimes committed against her.
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