This article contains discussion of rape.
When did you last scroll through Instagram and roll your eyes at a picture of a takeaway coffee cup or a particularly well-constructed stack of pancakes?
They are the mundane images that make Instagram famous, remarkable only in their banality. If it’s a platform for documenting our everyday lives, predictable as they may be, it’s one on which anti-rape activist Amber Amour’s posts recording her assault and its aftermath should be nothing out of the ordinary.
Only, rape is not like brunch. It’s a commonplace, everyday occurrence, alright – Rape Crisis estimate that one in four women will be raped in their lifetime – but it’s not one so trivial, and it doesn’t sit so easily amidst a rose-tinted, Photoshopped view of the world.
In place of breakfast, Amour’s posts documented brutality. A mindless catalogue of cheeky Nandos and #blessed couples was disrupted, and the internet responded with predictable outrage.
“It’s beyond me that someone would put themselves in a situation such as this” reads one response. “Definitely false! Just a coincidence this happened when she was on anti-rape trip is it?” is another. Even the most sympathetic corners of the internet set about wondering whether it was all just a bit uncomfortable.
And, well, it is. But how could it be anything else, when the reality is so much worse? Despite epidemic levels of sexual violence, we remain a society defiant in our staunch opposition to confronting it. We pile responsibility onto victims in our desperation to excuse perpetrators. We trivialise the impacts of assault. This desperation to sustain dangerous gender power imbalances is rape culture, and dictating the boundaries of acceptability within which women may voice their discontent is just another facet of it.
With the self-selecting nature of social media concentrating the entire process, we see the internet erupt at the site of Amour’s ‘live-blog’ while there’s a chance you didn’t even hear the news that, just this week, two men were charged for their live broadcasting of a sexual assault via Snapchat.
Why, after all, should survivors of sexual violence cater to our comfort by remaining quiet while their attackers are all too happy to broadcast their crimes? Why should men get to use social media to send targeted, visceral rape threats to women while we are only afforded a weary smile and a block button in return?
Why, when social media is about sharing our lives and landmark events, should we censor some of the most impactful and formative experiences of all just to keep everyone else happy?
In subverting a platform reserved for only the most beautiful of everyday life, Amber Amour has shone a light on the ugly truth about sexual violence. Using Instagram to break the deafening silence that sustains rape culture is a real social media revolution we should all get behind.