Violence Against Persons In Social Media

Dame Julie Okah Donli  |

A philosopher once said that social media is a two way tool that can either make or maim us and I cannot but agree. Social media has so many positive influence on people but one of the things that social media does to people is that it makes people take as a joke what should be taken seriously. Most times, social media users laugh, comment, share and ‘catch cruise’ with things that ought to be properly addressed to prevent them from degenerating into something worse.

I can still imagine how nauseated I felt watching the video of a lady who went to the restaurant with another man and when her boyfriend caught her at the restaurant, he created a scene by verbally abusing her, smashing her phone on the floor and removing her wig and forcing her hand bag out of her hand and screaming that he bought even the dress she wore out and that he could strip her and take the dress away if he wanted.

I had expected to read strong messages from social media users and influencers condemning the act and deterring others from towing the same path as the man did but unfortunately, what I saw was funny comments, thousands of shares and likes. Some people said it was right for him to forcefully take back all that he had bought her while others said although he had the right to take back all that he bought for her with his money, he ought not to have done so in public, the others who viewed the video were simply indifferent and saw it as an avenue to laugh and throw banters at ladies who have boyfriends and still hang out with other men as though doing so was some sort of crime.

Social media is an avenue where many things can be learnt and unlearnt and I am sure that they are so many young people and even some elderly ones who would replicate this attitude of destroying their partners’ properties even when they are not the ones who purchased it. Over time, this attitude becomes normal and young people begin to see it as a normal way of life.

The implication of this is that we tend to normalize those things that should ordinarily get us worried. The question I have always asked is that if people can publicly ridicule you, what will they not do to you in private? Little wonder that many women stay in abusive marriages and refuse to speak up until they end up dead or disabled for life.

The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, 2015 strongly condemns the act of damaging property of another person with the intent of causing distress. The Act states that a person who causes mischief or destruction or damage to the property of another with the intent to cause distress or annoyance to the victim, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding N300, 000.00 or both. The Act also spells out punishment for people who aid and abet such offence and those who attempt to commit such offence. It then means that most of the things that we tolerate and laugh over can be considered as violence against persons.

The fact remains that ignorance is not as excuse before the law, therefore, the earlier we get ourselves acquainted with different ways in which we can commit punishable offences, the better for us. This is one of the reasons why I have refused to relent in creating more awareness on the issues of sexual and gender based violence and human trafficking.

Abuse can be physical, psychological, mental and emotional and they are all interwoven because one form of abuse often leads to the other. For instance when a person starts to abuse you verbally, it is likely to lead to physical abuse such as slapping, shoving etc.

In the video that trended on social media, the man began to throw things around as soon as he got to the restaurant, and everyone had to scamper for safety. The questions people ought to ask before laughing at the video is what if in the process of him throwing tantrums, someone got hurt by the chairs and everything that was flying around? What if he had inflicted some sort of physical injury on the lady while pulling out her hair?

We should be worried about what a man who does this in public will do to her in private and if he can do this when he is not married to her, we can only imagine the horrible things he would do to her when he marries her.

I strongly stand against any form of abuse because condoning and simplifying one form of abuse often serves as the catalyst for other forms of abuses to thrive. Rather than join the bandwagon of social media users who use their platforms to ridicule other people and make jest of their predicaments by liking, commenting and sharing videos that encourage different vices, we could use our platform to create more awareness on the need for dialogue as a means of resolving differences between not just men and women but also the use of dialogue to foster ethnic and religious coexistence in Nigeria as this is the only way we can achieve meaningful and sustained development in the country.

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