Opinion: Think before you post! On the “battered woman” hoax

 by Chi Ibe

I saw the photo on the left yesterday, and I was enraged. The accompanying story that identified the woman in the picture as a victim of domestic violence. I sat in my office and thought,  “Certainly, I have to publicise this picture.” No woman deserves that, and any man who does that deserves only death in the darkest dungeons. 

The picture went viral on BlackBerries with this message, “The lady on my DP I don’t know. But she is Nigerian and in Lagos. I got the pix from a friend’s DP (with permission): they are trying to spread this to say no and make the victim speak up in case she is planning to hide the brutality. If she is in the know of this pictorial protest, I can’t say a categorical yes to. Any other details I get I will broadcast. Thanks.” It has been inspiring to see the passion across the internet to help this woman; I am heartened that enough of us know that it is unacceptable that this should happen. Still, I gave it some pause—because it suddenly occurred to me that sometimes it is possible—just like Rwandans complained about Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 campaign—that an uncritical viral campaign can do more harm than good.

As it turns out, according to the Imo State Blog, it is an elaborate hoax and the woman was in fact not a victim of domestic violence (http://www.imostateblog.com/2012/03/29/follow-up-the-real-identity-of-the-woman-allegedly-beaten-by-her-husband/). She wasn’t even a Nigerian at all, but that is even largely beside the point. The fact is even if this was a woman that had gone through such savagery; still there are some things folks should have considered before circulating. Below are my thoughts on some things folks should have considered before acting, in case this happens again. 

Have we thought of her and her peculiar situation?

Is it possible that these pictures will make her situation worse? The story was that her friends “smuggled” out the picture to force her to speak out, and I say what gives them that right? What if she was holed up in the house with this brute of a husband and this would only put her further in harm’s way? What if she stays in a part of the country where the men believe a woman should not speak out and decide to ‘punish’ her with more violence? What if we further endangered her by the publicity? 

Does this woman have kids? What about them?  

Yes, no woman should go through this, and the man must be punished, but, at what cost? Isn’t there another way we could have done this without ensuring that, if she has children, they would see a picture of their battered mum splashed across the internet, especially without her permission? 

Is this the best way? 

I am yet to be convinced that this was the best way to solve this – apart from satisfying latent voyeurism. Wouldn’t it be better to reach the police and where they cannot be trusted, reach the various groups working on violence against women – say BAOBAB for women’s rights or Project Alert? Since this campaign was online based, these resources, that will actually get justice for this woman, without exhibiting her pain, are readily available on the web. Wouldn’t that be the more productive option? 

 Have we considered someone might be trying to be devious?

 Seriously, with friends like that, who would need enemies? Could we ask ourselves first – what kind of ‘friends’ would have done violated her privacy at this level? What would be the goal, what would be the motivation, what could have been the expected outcome of trying to shame your friend into “speaking out”? Speaking out to who, by the  way? To her family who could be reached in person? To the police who inspire little confidence in domestic violence victims, indeed any crime victims? To the press? Considering this point actually leads one into a big blurry mess. 

How about investigating the story first? 

We didn’t even know the woman’s name! How do you begin to campaign based on a story that doesn’t have any details to hold on? No media had actually confirmed via an investigation, and all we had was speculation for an event that, as it turns out, did not even occur. Why didn’t we, as discerning members of the public, ask about the who, what, when, where, and why?  

We must remember that ultimately, after all the attention we all brought to the ABSU rape case, including the Sahara Reporters “expose” on the so-called identity of the rapists; it is tragically possible we might have done her more harm than good, especially since no one now knows where she is./span> 

Domestic violence is wrong, but for the woman it’s complicated! 

Everyone says a woman should immediately leave an abusive marriage – but what no one talks about is how complicated this really is to disentangle oneself from a contractual relationship as intertwining as marriage, especially in our country. No, it’s not that simple! It’s not as simple as ‘Show the world her picture – so that the husband will suffer!’ No, it’s not that simple! There are children involved, there is security, there are emotions, there is fear, and there is uncertainty. Women in these situations need love, counsel, and patience – not a name-and-shame shock therapy. 

Have we considered all the possible scenarios?  

Did we even stop to think – what if this was a spoof, what if it was a still shot taken from a movie, what if the injuries were not from domestic violence? What if she was beaten up by thugs? A victim of a brutal rape? Or involved in an unfortunate motor accident? What if … as it turned out, in this case, we can see that it is wise to always explore the possibility of other scenarios.

 The responsibility of the media (even blogs)

 Far be it from fallible me to play media critic, but have we thought about the propriety as media of circulating this against the woman’s wishes – because of circumstances and situations we do not know about? Is it really proper for the media to have gone to town with this without stopping to confirm the true circumstances of the woman in the picture, at the very least? 

Have we scarred this woman for life? 

There is a reason why courts routinely hide the identities of victims of certain crimes. If this was really a battery, we should have asked ourselves: putting this woman’s good picture besides one showing her badly battered meant we had identified her, without her consent, with such a sad time in her life. She would be identified as “that women whose husband beat her”. Is that really the best way we could have helped her? 

 It’s the same with a now extremely popular “Letter from the Grave”. It was such a heart-breaking story, said to be written by someone close to a lady who is purported to be writing the letter from the grave to her husband. But, I began to panicked when people began to out the husband’s work address and Facebook page. The man has since suspended his Facebook account becaust of the cyber harassment that had ensued. 

I know that many may read this piece, miss the point of it, and begin to express rage and disgust that someone would even decide to question our holy rage – but this is a call for pause. 

It is important for us to understand that sometimes the easiest solution isn’t always the wisest, or the best.

 

 

 

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Comments (23)

  1. The people that abused this writer are just nonetities. After circulating the pix, did it help the woman? Its better u report to a social welfare in charge of this kinda issues. Before you run ur mouth with words from your twisted brain, think especially Samson.

  2. Chi,thank you for the thought provoking article. Hopefully some people will be a little more hesitant before hitting the share button. And if that is achieved,great! The rest? Treat like water off a ducks back!

  3. The point the writer is trying to make is for bloggers to put a little more effort in researching their source before spreading a story.

    It is their responsibility to do so so as not to pass wrong information out and not make a bad situation worse for the woman

    And I totally agree with him

  4. For all the peeps who have insulted the writer, I hope by now you have located the battered woman,taken her to the hospital and arrested the husband with policemen. You can actually do better than insult someone who only shared his tought.

  5. Why can't be just read then think on what Chi wrote before raining insults on him. Let us learn to weigh our options before making our decisons,he only aired his views do the same and let us read your opinion about this issue.

  6. Dr. Abati called it "the essential scourge of our time!". How else can one describe what social media has turned our cyberspace into? Every Tom, Dick and Harry on internet now have something to say whether reasonable, true or not! Imagine someone here is saying the truth laced with sound advice and many people are abusing and cursing him especially those without the patience to read him out. It is simply shameful, nay criminal to circulate information that is a concocted half-truth or outright falsehood just to win public sympathy. Whoever started this hoax is indeed a wicked fellow and people should learn to verify information before 'helping' to circulate it.

  7. I am so shocked that human beings who would feel insulted if they are called illiterates would offer a critic of a writer on a piece they themselves say they have not read. If you haven't read the write-up, how do you know what the writer said and based on what are you insulting the writer. Isn't that madness?

    Mr. Chi Ibe has put forward a well-thought out piece that requires that we weight our actions and consequences of same before taking them. In no place did he support domestic voilence or voilence of any kind.

    I am getting tired of the throlls on cyber space.

  8. Personally, I think the internet is fast becoming a stomping ground for trolls and frustrated people. I might be a little harsh here, but did any body actually take the time to read the article? I did, and in no way is the author condoning domestic violence. He is just advising caution in the information we broadcast. Now before you all crucify me, let me ask, If the person in the pic is your eldest sister who was in an Okada accident, and this pic went viral with the wife beating story, what would ur reaction be? Now rain ur curses

  9. Personally, I think the internet is fast becoming a stomping ground for trolls and frustrated people. I might be a little harsh here, but did any body actually take the time to read the article? I did, and in no way is the author condoning domestic violence. He is just advising caution in the information we broadcast. Now before you all crucify me, let me ask, If the person in the pic is your eldest sister who was in an Okada accident, and this pic went viral with the wife beating story, what would ur reaction be? Now rain ur curses.

  10. Strangely, the ones that said they couldn't bear to finish the write up are the ones insulting the most! There are so many trolls aka Liam Staceys in Naija's Cybersphere. How I wish they could all be brought to justice.

    Chi, your article is spot on. People refuse to think and when a better/new line of thought is presented to them, they panic and recoil into survival mode by insulting and becoming abusive.

    The bottom line of this article is 'Think before you Act' [How hard is that?]

  11. Without reading more than the first paragraph, I must say that who ever wrote this is insane and most be sm1 who can do thesame thing to his wife. You must be so stupid to have this thoughts in such a case, what more danger can the woman be in more than she already is??? R u really human??

  12. @Lawal: You are totally wrong. We have on record a good number of victims of domestic violence who 'put themselves' out there and became poster girls for the epidemic. In recent memory, Mrs Wigwe. I would rather see someone take time to address the points that Mr Ibe raised rather than just repeat the obvious points he has already raised eg He has already said that public outrage is good for the cause. @Mena: Take note!

  13. Thinking is a seriously lacking commodity among Nigerians online. Someone put out a very indepth analysis of the things to consider before spreading stories that are unconfirmed and all some ignorant people can do is rain abuses on the person instead of considering the fine points Chi raised.

    Is there any difference between someone who uses abusive language on people he doesn't agree with a wife beater?

    Sick!

  14. Thinking is a seriously lacking commodity among Nigerians online. Someone put out a very indepth analysis of the things to consider before spreading stories that are unconfirmed and all some ignorant people can do is rain abuses on the person instead of consider the fine points Chi raised.

    Sick!

  15. Okay, u must b crazy to ever say it would do more harm than good. U r a man, u wil neva know. Or r u just absolutely insensitive? Gosh! I cnt blieve I even had d patience to read this to the end. U must b one of those who blieve in 'don't rock the boat' theory.

    Speak up pple. It is already complicated when he begins pounding her. It gets even more complicated wen u keep quiet.

    Public rage often leads to change —- for good. My mother is alive today, thanks to public rage. I don't have a relationship with her, but I am content that I did not lose her when I was a child. Thank you, public, for showing rage. My mum is alive.

  16. there's no victim of violence or abuse that would willing put herself out there, you fool! It is society's responsibilty to put it all out there. her permission isn't always needed. She is under pressure and pain and may even be in love and would want to protect the offender, so she is not in a position to understand what is good for her. The only thing that is bad for her is to remain quiet. speak up! and you Chi Ibe, shut up!

  17. You are so stupid you need to be run by a truck! Not death, just enough bruises so you can go home and lock yourself and hide your "shame". Yes, this is how stupid you sound!

  18. so what about the kids? she should hide her scars from the kids, right? and pretend its all ok! Indeed, you are a mad person! Whether it is exposed or kept a secret an evil deed has been done! When your fada pounds your mother, please tell her to stay quiet inside her room so you – her children – will not live with the shame of the reality unfolding. Mad!

  19. @Samson. You know you dont've to curse and abuse someone before you drive home you point right?

    Shows immaturity on ur part. The internet gives so much room for freedom of speech but you dont've to abuse it

  20. Oh, God bless you so richly, I am so relieved that someone's actually talking about this. We need to tale responsibility. Everyone wants to get angriest. Ask urself – are u actually helping or making matters worse? Thanks, Chi, thank you.

  21. Yeah nice write up esp on ur expose about the battered woman not being who we thought her to be. But what about the 'Letter from the grave' thing? You didnt clarify much about that. Is it bad to condemn that one too. After all the man didnt come out to refute the allegations

  22. Are you mad????!!! I can't even bear to read to the end. What crap are you spewing here? eh? you are looking for a decent way, a classy way to put an end to domestic violence? are you insane? Ynaija pls not every idiot with a sick opinion should have a credible platform to speak. may your words rot in your belly!

    1. @Samson, by their fruits you shall know them, with the amount of abuse in ur post , one can clearly see that u need counselling for anger management.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail