Photo Friday: Seeing violence through the eyes of another, via Slutwalk DC

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I took this photograph at Slutwalk DC (@slutwalkdc), which has been an annual event in Washington, DC, intended to support a violence and blame free-world for victims of sexual assualt. This was part of a series of photographs I took, including one that introduced me to a woman who I’ll call Norma.

As I mentioned in this recent post (See: Less connected social networks solve complex problems better : Go ahead, have a dream | Ted Eytan, MD), social media has connected me to networks outside of health care where I’ve learned so much about what health is and should be.

In Norma’s case:

It made me angry and upset that someone would attend an event meant for survivors and supporters just to belittle and (eventually) harass them. I’ve been to Slutwalk all three years, and I’ve never encountered an angry and abusive story like this one. It was definitely eye opening to see what some people think of victims of rape, and how they really do think people can be deserving of (and “ask for”) rape and violence.

What she’s talking about is the fact that one of my images, that included Norma, was republished by another individual in a way that I would consider harmful and abusive. I requested that my photograph be taken down, which it eventually was, once we located and notified the publisher that the license to use the photograph was revoked by me (all my photos are creative commons licensed by default; I reserve the right to unlicense any photo that does not support health, power of social media).

I went through this journey with Norma, seeing things from her perspective, and I am so glad I did.

I would tell men (or really people in general who act like this particular blogger) that situations like this are exactly why Slutwalk exists. It’s victim blaming and harassment, and we’re just supposed to accept it because that’s how society is, and it’s our fault for putting ourselves out there and having our voices heard. I know the Internet is full of mean people, it always will be, but to shame women (and men!) who are survivors, who are our family and friends, who want to make a positive change, well it’s a little frightening. I hope we get to a point where we won’t even need Slutwalk and other similar protests because it will be like second nature to treat people with respect and dignity when it comes to what they want to do with their bodies.

I want to thank you again for standing up for me and my friend at a time when we felt very vulnerable; we were afraid to contact him directly, as that would only let him know not only who we are, but that he achieved his goal of making victims feel ashamed.

Our journey is clearly not over. The original photo has been vaporized. Norma and I decided to leave all the other photographs up. 

I had no idea who had taken the picture of us, but thanks to the glorious internet I was able to dig up your contact information. It actually turned a disturbing situation into a comforting one; it started a dialogue about the event, the weird situation I found myself in, the people who normally attend this event, and why it’s important. It was a nice reminder that I shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed, I did nothing wrong. Slutwalk is meant to inform and start discussions, so in a weird way I should be thanking this angry blogger for posting my picture because he did just that.

As I have said previously, social media is about listening; physician engagement is as important as patient engagement. You never know what you’ll learn from posting a single photograph on a social media site. I learned about the courage of people in my community – Norma and her colleagues.

I asked Norma if it was okay for me to quote her:

That would be fine, however it will fit into your post 🙂 and thank you for coming to slutwalk, asking questions, and being a supporter!

Thank you Norma, for connecting with me online, allowing me to listen, and letting me support you. We are here to protect and spread health; our generation has the power to change everything 🙂


Ted Eytan, MD