Thursday, August 20, 2015

Circulating child abuse videos: consider how the distributor re-victimises the victim/s by Debarati Halder
Very recently in Facebook a friend of mine posted a video of a little child being violently beaten by an adult. It may be the child’s father or uncle or any other caregiver who wanted the child to score more marks. Some days later, another friend of mine showed me the same clipping in her WhatsApp account. The later being a person well versed in law, did not circulate the clipping. Instead, as per my suggestion, reported the video to WhatsApp. But by this time millions of users of Facebook and WhatsApp would have seen the clipping. But this is not the only incidence of child abuse that may have been documented and circulated in the social media. There are umpteen numbers of video clippings and still images  of child abuse, sexual assault of children, rape videos etc that are being circulated every day in social media. The magic of internet network and social media make many such contents viral. Even if the receiver does not want to see such contents, he/she has to have a glance of such images when such images or clippings land up in his/her profile or account. Have you ever considered how these contents keep travelling time and places and what happens to those victims? One extremely important point every one must note that all contents are not for circulation always. Due to the smart use of smart phones, all of us have become ‘citizen journalists’ who document each and every noteworthy event in his/her daily life every day. These may include traffic violation cases, street children harassment cases, domestic violence cases and even terror strikes. In the last cases, the police and the army may continuously ask the civilians to switch off their mobile phones, especially not to use the mobile messaging services for circulating images as it may help the terrorists as well. For the cause of national security, the particular area may be blocked by intelligence department to receive any internet services. But in other cases, it depends much on individual perceptions as how we are taking the issues of harassment and why do we consider it worthy for circulating to our friends and then to millions of unknown strangers.  People who are capturing such images, may never know that the images/clippings may not only be stored in their own devices, but  may also be stored in other’s devices and that particular person/s may not take it as an issue of concern, but may take it as an issue of self gratification.
          Consider the latest clipping where the child was being beaten by the adult: in many families, parents do slap or hit a growing child as an ultimate measure to discipline him/her. Slowly Indian society is recognising such behaviour of the adults with the children as risky behaviour, especially when intentionally the adults beat the child to an extent to cause grave injury to his/her body. In some families young mothers of young children are over burdened, constantly harassed by the husbands or in laws for various issues including bad cooking, messy house keeping and even for satisfying the demanding husbands. May be because such young mothers need more time to cope with the  situation where they have to balance their time between their children and the family, they (the mothers) may direct their anger and frustration on the children. Nonetheless, such helpless situations of both the mother and child may be documented  by other adults or even children and subsequently these clippings may be used for court cases if in case the husband or the in laws want to prove that the mother is not capable of handling the child. Such images may even travel  in the internet and pile up comments which may prove extremely detrimental to the mother and children later. No one ever comes back  to look into reason why the adult woman had to beat the child or how she would have managed the child later. Who cares? The distributor/s may simply enjoy the  harsh comments targeting the poor woman and her child who may become a strong support to her later. But this is just an exceptional hypothesis which needs to be tested. In the same line, think of the child who is abused by elders including own family members: may be the recipients may shower sympathy to the child, but have you ever considered the mental state of the child when he/she gets to know that his/her clipping has been in that particular situation has been seen by hundreds of ‘watchers’ who can not help him in any way, but  may feel satisfied’ by thinking that sharing the clipping or commenting on the clipping may make them marked as ‘concerned people’.
          The same thing goes when one comes across any sexual abuse of children. Whether it is sexual harassment related to bad touch, or sexual molestation or even to graver offences like rape, one should prohibit oneself from circulating the images even for ‘accused finding’. This is especially true those who capture ragging scenes, sexual harassment scenes where  matured teenagers are victimised who may be joining higher classes after finishing the secondary board exams.  Remember that these young victims may get to see their own victimisation scenes in near future when they log into their Facebook pages or even open accounts with WhatsApp.  It is not enough to hide the faces of the victims alone when the whole scene of victimisation is circulated. The victims themselves may feel extremely traumatised to get back these scenes. It is for this very understanding that the Protection of Children from sexual offences Act, 2012 was strengthened with S.23 which reads as follows:
“23. (1) No person shall make any report or present comments on any child from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities without having complete and authentic information, which may have the effect of lowering his reputation or infringing upon his privacy.
(2) No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child: Provided that for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Special Court, competent to try the case under the Act, may permit such disclosure, if in its opinion such disclosure is in the interest of the child.
(3) The publisher or owner of the media or studio or photographic facilities shall be jointly and severally liable for the acts and omissions of his employee.
(4) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment of either description for a period which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”
However, all laws come with an exception clause where by certain actions that are  recognised as offence, would not be considered as an offence if done by the criminal justice machinery in particular ways laid down by the laws and for particular reasons which must pass the acid test of laws as well as the constitutional  provisions and guarantees.  POCSO Act stands as an exception especially in this regard when it comes to circulating the images for fact finding.  After WhatsApp has been recognised as an extremely popular medium to communicate with the police, the government is constantly encouraging to create welfare Apps whereby individuals can upload or download information or share information with the police. We need to note that even while availing this technology, police must use the images of the accused which should be independent from the crime scene as a whole. Police has been given this special right because they are the recognised organisation to carry on the investigation for the benefit of the victim as well as the society. Civilians should not take the role of the police in circulating of the images.
However, I have noted that even while in such circumstances; such circulation by the police may also meet accidental violation of the laws and victim’s rights. But we need to note that for this again, there are proper reporting and investigating mechanisms.  In my opinion, instead of taking up the responsibility of spreading the news about the accused by way spreading the victimisation clipping /image as a while( which actually spreads the victimisation of the child in question as well), people must consider immediately reporting the matter to the local police station or police head quarters with all evidence to show from where the images have travelled. This would definitely reduce the chances of re-victimising the victim and make the ‘reporter’ of the offensive clipping a saviour in a unique way.
Do consider.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2015), " Circulating child abuse videos: consider how the distributor re-victimises the victim/s”, 21st August, 2015 , published in

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