I love going on facebook. As much as I try to deny it, I love it. It is the way I connect with friends who I can’t see everyday, share important news pieces, learn about social events, it is the way that I feel connected to the world around me. But facebook and I have also had a few tense moments that have caused me to swallow the giant lump in my throat and think critically about my engagement on the site. One of those moments was when facebook suggested that I become friends my abusive ex-partner. I wanted to scream at facebook (yes, the computer, the site, the whole company), and just felt like they should have known better!! How could this happen?! Six years later, and I felt as though no time had passed, I was instantly just as hurt and just as angry. New York Times online Opinionator column addressed this very issue of social media and it’s power to reconnect to potentially triggering individuals in recent weeks.
On January 13, the New York Times published an opinion column written by Dorri Olds called “Defriending My Rapist”. Olds describes how a facebook connection with her rapist had lead her to confront him about the feelings that she still held on to about the situation.
In a private message directly to her rapist, Olds wrote:
“I hope that night has haunted you. I was naïve and a virgin. I see you have a teenage daughter now. Better keep her safe from guys like you.”
Olds continues by saying that:
“I wanted to hate him and hurt him but realized that the only way to be free was to let it all go. When I defriended him I felt strong. The past was the past, and my mouth wasn’t covered anymore.”
In the age of social media and interconnected, often overlapping, social networks, I can’t help but wonder how to best negotiate new arenas to confront previous trauma. I do know that we, as prevention and intervention specialists and members of the sexual assault movement, have an opportunity to reach out to our communities and talk about this emerging topic. I still believe that social media is an overwhelmingly positive tool that allows us to reach out to members of our community through exciting new channels, encouraging a greater number of people to join our movement and engage in our work. The challenge for us may be in harnessing the power of sites like twitter and facebook to get out a positive message about prevention education, survivor support, and community resources while counterbalancing and addressing the potentially negative consequences of being connected online.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section about how you feel we, as a prevention and intervention community, can speak to our communities about social media and its power to connect survivors with resources and support.