What do you see when you search for ‘rape’ on Google images? Or when you pick up a newspaper and turn to the article that reported gender based violence last night? Or for that matter when you switch on your TV and watch the illustrations and images that go side by side with the news anchor’s voice as he/she reports a sexual assault in your city?
Isn’t this what you usually see – a helpless woman with torn clothes? Crouched in a corner? Sitting in the dark? Face covered in shame? Eyes closed in fear? The culprit in silhouette? Or looming over her? An evil shadow in the background? Or something else on similar lines?
Don’t you always notice that the illustrations in the news stories related to rape and gender based violence mostly focus on the victim? Don’t the images evoke in your mind feelings of her vulnerability, fear, powerlessness, shame?
Don’t you think it’s time to break the stereotypes in our narrative?
We should stop portraying girls as the victims. Why don’t we show them as survivors instead? Why should we recreate the assault scene for the girl? If we have to put up an image illustrating the assault, why don’t we focus on the moments when she had put up a fight? It doesn’t matter whether she was successful in her attempt or unfortunately failed to stop the assault. You can’t go back in time to help her in that particular moment. But the least you can do is not make her relive that moment every time she sees an image associated with the news of her assault. And if she has to relive that moment unfortunately, we can atleast try to encourage her for her efforts of putting up a fight that day by illustrating the wounds, scratches on the culprit’s face? The subtle shift in our narrative may encourage her to see the incident with a slight comfort that atleast she did put up a fight, atleast she resisted with all her might that day and that she is strong enough to stand up against him with the help of the law now.
What if we come up with images that shame the culprit, not the victim? By shifting our focus on the perpetrators and removing the victim from the center of the narrative, can we bring about a positive change in the mindset of our society, in the survivor’s life?
And what about adding more symbolism to the illustration? Sexual assaults are not binary – male against female or vice versa. Can we try breaking this heteronormativity in our narrative through gender-neutral images?
What if we diverge from the violence, blood and gore and create an image that has a healing effect on the survivors? What if the focus shifts to the empathy part and the survivor is encouraged by the support from the society and law?
These are just a few examples of how changing the concept of the narrative can create more sensitive images for circulation in the newsrooms. What can you bring to the table? How can you help bring about this change? There’s a lot to think about and many ways to contribute to this cause.
Let’s do it!