It’s a familiar scenario: A 16-year-old girl in Houston alleges she went to a party, drank some punch that someone offered her, and passed out. Only later did she find out, through pictures being shared on social media and friends gossiping online, that she had possibly been sexually assaulted. Houston police are investigating the case, but in the meantime, photos of the girl passed out, including one of her naked on the floor, are circulating, inspiring an awful Twitter hashtag, #jadapose.
Now this girl, who is only going by the name Jada, has decided to go to the press with her story, showing her face during an interview with KHOU-11 in Houston.
Man, does this demonstrate what a double-edged sword social media can be when it comes to issues of assault and bullying. On one hand, social media can be used to pile on someone who is already the victim of abuse. The Houston Press reports that after Jada gave her interview to KHOU, another round of ugliness started when idiots started tweeting pictures of themselves splayed out on the ground, mimicking the pose Jada was in when someone snapped the photo of her passed out.
However, it also appears that social media and the new openness that it breeds is being used to push back, and hard. If you go to the #jadapose hashtag now, the handful of people who were cruel enough to make fun of Jada have been completely drowned out by Jada’s supporters, denouncing the mockery and offering emotional support to Jada for speaking out.
Social media appears to have played a role in Jada’s choice to show her face on TV, as well. “There's no point in hiding,” she explained in the interview. “Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”
It’s a shame that anyone would feel like they might as well come forward because they have lost so much control of their own situation. But, by putting her face out there, Jada is taking some power back. It’s much harder to marginalize or even demonize an alleged sexual assault victim who makes you acknowledge her humanity. As Emily Bazelon argued in defense of Daisy Coleman, another alleged rape victim who bravely showed her face on TV, while it is a “huge personal risk,” it “can only help erase the stigma of being sexually assaulted.”
As Emily noted about Coleman and another young woman who was speaking out at the time, Jada is also “teaching a lesson in resilience” by “being clear eyed about what they say happened” but “not letting it own them.” She is refusing to be reduced to a few blurred-out photos. She is looking directly at the camera, and that’s the pose I’ll remember.