By now, you’ve most likely seen The Video.
You know the one. It features a large man brutalising a small child over a bottle of milk and it pretty much took over Facebook for two whole days.
I won’t be linking to it here (that would be rather pointless, now that the police have caught the suspects), but if — by chance — you haven’t seen it, trust me when I tell you it’s very hard to watch. Especially if you have a child of your own. Particularly if that child happens to be right around the age of the child in the video.
This is why I can almost understand the perspective of those who were outraged to see it pop up over and over in their newsfeeds. It scarred my soul to watch that little girl’s valiant attempts to bear up under the heavy hand of her abuser in order to avoid more abuse. I haven’t been able to look at my own happy, healthy two-year-old daughter without feeling a pang ever since. It hurts to know that, while I will gladly lay down my life to prevent my child from experiencing that, no one was there in that moment to do the same for this little girl. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to really get it out of my head.
That, by the way, is the whole point. Anyone with a modicum of empathy will feel sickened by the video and find it hard to watch the entire thing, which is exactly why I did. I stumbled across it in my newsfeed while my daughter was sitting just a few feet away with a Curious George book. I watched it all, while my stomach clenched and my heart ached, because there was no way it could feel worse to watch it than it did to endure it. I watched it because the (quite natural) impulse to turn away is why so many people feel empowered to do it on a regular basis.
You see, that little girl may well feel embarrassed years from now when she discovers that a video of her abuse went viral, but it was that video that raised the public outcry to catch her abusers in the first place. In a country where the police seem to revel in moving at a glacial pace, where corporal punishment is often discussed as a rite of passage, and the new education minister seems willing to entertain the idea of reintroducing it to the school system, the reaction to the video was strong and swift enough that the alleged perpetrators were identified within hours and facing charges by the following afternoon.
THAT is why the video was worth sharing. That is what it takes to make a real change. It’s easy to feel disgust at the sight of a savage act and write the perpetrator off as inhuman or demonic. The hard work comes in recognizing that the man who felt empowered to slap a toddler to the ground and snatch her up by her hair is a human being produced by this very society. And he’s not the only one. If we keep looking away from the things that are hard to stomach, the other children who aren’t lucky enough to have their abuse uploaded to Facebook will remain invisible. There won’t be a social media outcry for them and their abusers won’t have to go into hiding for fear of getting a taste of their own medicine. Watching the video was hard, but, for me, living with that knowledge is harder.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather face the ugly truth.
What’s your take on the video and the widespread decision to share it? Tell us in the comments.
Calisa is the exhausted mother of an energetic, (generally) good-natured and ridiculously sharp toddler whose sole mission in life is obviously to keep mommy on her toes. She spends much of her time reading board books, changing diapers and saying “Ah-ah-ah! Mommy said ‘NO’!” while counting down the hours to bedtime.