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hindustan times
via Hindustan Times

Sexual assault survivors share stories with Snapchat filters

The filters offer anonymity for those speaking out in the Hindustan Times’ coverage of a local campaign against sexual abuse

Sharing stories of sexual assault, especially when they’ve gone unreported, can be traumatic: people fear the fallout from speaking out and the stigma attached to it. An Indian news channel has come up with a way of platforming the stories of sexual assault survivors while keeping their anonymity with Snapchat filters.

While dog-ears and dragon masks may seem flippant enough pieces of face-mapping technology, Yusuf Omar, the mobile editor at Hindustan Times, found a much more serious use. He told journalism.co.uk: “Recording with a mask gave them the sense of legitimacy and security that I wasn’t going to be able to show their face, as opposed to trusting a journalist saying ‘Yes, we will blur you afterwards’ so they felt empowered and in control of the narrative.”

The project was a part of the publication’s coverage of the Climb Against Sexual Abuse campaign in Mysore, India. Participants engage in hikes to raise awareness for the physical and emotional toil placed on abuse survivors. The 50 women involved were given iPhones and a selfie stick, then Omar left them alone to film themselves.

“They weren't telling their story to me or a camera," he said, "they were just looking at themselves in a phone and recalling their experiences – and there was something so personal and sincere about that.”

While working towards lifting the taboo that surrounds young women who report their rapes in the country, it also offers a level of autonomy and personal safety. “Stigma around sexual violence is such a big issue, especially in India where women are frequently accused of lying, and now you get to see a young woman tell her story for herself, but with all of her emotions,” Omar explained.

In India, rape is the fourth most common crime, and sexual assault occurs every 22 minutes

They hope to revisit the project again with the next climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.