The Climb Against Sexual Abuse movement was started to empower survivors of sexual assault and help them battle social stigma . It’s a symbolic manifestation of the ‘uphill struggle’ against sexual violence, and the stigma that surrounds it, both significant problems in India.
The movement itself is an international one, but an event was recently organised in Chamundi Hills in Mysuru where activists climbed over a thousand steps to create awareness about sexual violence. Plans are also in the pipeline to take this event to Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest.
When stories of sexual assault are reported by media houses, the faces of survivors are often shadowed, blurred or silhouetted. Sometimes, survivors are even coached on how to deliver their lines. This often leads to an incomplete and misguided understanding of events as well as a distorted understanding of the survivor’s experience.
In a unique move, journalist Yusuf Omar used the app ‘Snapchat’ to challenge and change this narrative. He asked survivors of sexual assault to share their stories using the app’s filters as masks.
Initially, the fact that Snapchat, a casual everyday story-sharing channel, was chosen as a platform to share their stories, made survivors uncomfortable. Slowly however, they began to step forward and press the record button.
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What’s different about this approach is, the fact that it allows survivors to take complete control of their narrative. It also allows them to cathartically share their experiences while remaining anonymous. The filters also allow them to communicate using their eyes and body language which, according to Omar, builds a stronger connection with the audience. This, by extension, also empowers survivors.
“They weren’t telling their story to me or a camera, they were just looking at themselves in a phone and recalling their experiences and there was something so personal and sincere about that.” said Omar to IBTimes UK.