4 reasons why social media should be the last place gender based violence victims turn to
On November 15, 2023, social media in Kenya erupted when musician Avril, born Judith Nyambura, quickly posted and deleted photos of her injured face; revealing she had been abused by her partner and baby daddy, renowned cinematographer J Blessing, born Jibril Blessing Mahmud Hussein.
Just as fast as she exposed him for battering her, Kenyans were quick to take sides and give their opinions. Many claimed Avril was clout chasing to promote new music while others turned on J Blessing for being a violent man behind the scenes.
Within minutes of the expose, Avril defended herself from social media critics in an issued statement and quickly followed it up with a forgiveness note to J Blessing and asking Kenyans to forgive him as well. This took many by surprise with how quickly events were unfolding on Avril’s side, some felt she was being pressured and gaslit behind the scenes.
Following her statement, J Blessing then issued his statement claiming he was not an abuser while at the same time, confessed to beating Avril a year prior as well. He then broke up with her in the same statement. Social media erupted once again.
This incident between the two Kenyan celebs and the online drama surrounding it is one of the reasons I believe victims of gender-based violence should keep off social media while still dealing with the aftermath of violence. Here’s why:
- The majority of social media users login to platforms to be entertained. They log in to blow off steam and many do not care who they burn with that steam. They would not care about the genuine facts behind a GBV incident, they would immediately begin speculating falsehoods and assign blame- especially on the victim. In this case, Avril endured so much of this that by today morning, she had deactivated her social media accounts. GBV victims will never gain sympathy online unless they can ‘prove their cases’ and ‘why they deserve to be considered victims.’
- A GBV victim’s emotional stability is further destroyed. Going public online takes a lot of guts, and sometimes, impulse. But with volatile social media, they will have to relive the trauma of the incident, keep explaining, and defend themselves against unfair judgment. While going public can alert people to be wary of a certain abuser, the trauma on the victim increases tenfold and their physical, mental, and emotional recovery will take a longer time.
- By sharing her trauma on social media, as unfair as it will become, this incident now marks her music and life for life. Both she and J Blessing will become another statistic of high-profile couples who’ve been through GBV and it will overshadow their high-flying careers and personal lives. Many in their social circles may feel they should have kept the matter off social media and will choose to keep away from them until it blows over or some may end up picking sides, leading to further friction behind the scenes. It’s a no-win situation.
- By bringing the matter onto social media, their son’s life is marked by these incidents. His school now knows what happened at home. His friends’ families now know. What could have been a private extended family matter will now also define their 7-year-old son in his interactions with others. Again, we are not blaming Avril for naming and shaming an abuser. Still, social media should have been the last place she did it after talking to relevant authorities and concerned family. By keeping it off social media, both parents would have managed to control the fallout as well as the information without having to deal with rumors and misinformation.
There is no shame in speaking out against gender-based violence, especially if you are the victim. It is important to name and shame abusers to keep potential victims safe. However, as social media is not a safe space, victims need to keep off the platforms until they are in a mentally and physically safe space where they can share their trauma confidently and give no room for rumors and victim shaming.