Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ending Abuse with Facebook?

For the past few days my Facebook feed has been full of cartoon characters replacing the profile pictures of my friends. I, personally, chose Tom and Jerry for mine. A social media campaign has been taking place for about a week (scheduled to end Dec. 6, 2010) to spread awareness about child abuse on Facebook. The point of this campaign is to spread awareness about the prevalence of child abuse by engaging people in conversations stemming from their favorite childhood cartoons characters.

I have a handful of cynical friends, many of whom posted statuses like ‘how does this end child abuse?’ These friends missed the point completely without even realizing they were indeed accomplishing the goal of the movement, simply by publicly criticizing the campaign. They initiated comments, which grew into debates on their walls and statuses. Many posted links for work that people could ‘actually’ do instead of just posting a picture for this cause. In my opinion, the campaign was a success! Their cynicism was disconcerting though. I wondered why these questions didn’t arise with the social media campaign for breast cancer awareness when these same cynics happily posted statuses with the color of their bra. It was the same concept. The same argument could be used against the breast cancer campaign. How does stating the color of your bra help breast cancer research and awareness?  It raises awareness by creating dialogue! So why didn’t this question occur with breast cancer, as it did with child abuse?  People didn’t ask this question then because child abuse enters the realm of domesticity and becomes personal.

Not only was this social media campaign criticized for its approach, it was also marred by a rumor. Someone actually posted this:

IMPORTANT: The group that told people to put a cartoon on your profile was a bunch of pedophiles. They did it so more kids would accept their friends request if they had cartoons instead of faces.

Not only was this post reposted several times, it was also a hot debate on Facebook leading to a newspaper article by Huffington Post

This sparks an interesting thought.  People have an easier time getting mad at the pedophile whom we assume to be  some type of outcast of society than being mad at a child’s abusive parent/relative/guardian.

In the case of child abuse, when  an unknown abuser  comes into the picture we take the crime as a crime against society and everyone is willing to take action and stand up against the injustice. When a guardian/ parent/relative who is supposed to love the child, abuses the child we have a hard time confronting the situation. We hate to question the love a parent has for his/her child. When the issue becomes domestic, we step back in fear of interfering in a personal family matter. 

We do the same thing when it comes to domestic or intimate partner violence. We look away; we don’t ask those we suspect of being victims because ‘it’s none of our business.’ We let our loved ones suffer the pain because we are uncomfortable admitting that the person that loves us is also capable of physically or emotionally hurting us. Would you be likely to offer help  if a co-worker consistently came to work with injuries? Do we differentiate between victims based on their age and gender or who their abuser is? Is this fair? We need to break ourselves from our comfort zone and help those that need us no matter what their situation happens to be. We need to stop judging and start supporting the victims of abuse. We need to stop the blame game. We need to take action in prevention of such crimes. The first step to this is with dialogue. Start talking…on or offline!


What do you think we can do in order to create the same kinds of awareness for domestic violence online as with child abuse and breast cancer awareness? Suggestions are appreciated!

~Saira Saim 
Department of Communications and Organizational Advancement


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