Recently, I had the opportunity to showcase the short documentary "Viral, Sial!" in Indonesia, which was produced for the Freedom Film Festival 2015 with the support of various organisations, including Projek Dialog.
The plan was to talk about online gender-based violence (OGBV), and "Viral, Sial!" talks about it by featuring the story of Aisyah Tajuddin, a former BFM radio presenter who suffered severe online abuse and harassment after a video of her criticising the political situation in Kelantan went viral.
This isn't the first time I helped to organise a screening of the film and be a resource person during the discussion, but one thing that happens every single time I do this never seems to diminish: I recall the trauma of my own experience with OGBV.
What happened to Aisyah Tajuddin was a national-scale public condemnation and persecution of not just her views, but her body. It was a deliberate act of online violence targeted not only at humiliating, but also annihilating her entire existence.
Unfortunately, in the case of Aisyah, they succeeded. Today, Aisyah has completely exited from the public sphere. We have never heard from her again.
Women find themselves in these unforgiving social circumstances so often that it demonstrates the higher barrier for social penetration for women compared to men.
When I first watched Aisyah’s video, it hadn't gone viral yet. But it only took a few minutes for me to have a bad feeling about the public reaction towards it.
"This is gonna be bad," I remember thinking to myself and already I could the sense the shiver down my spine.
As someone who has been on the receiving end of OGBV countless times, I couldn't help having some kind of “spidey sense” when it comes to anticipating online abuse.
I feared for Aisyah's safety almost immediately and I sent her a text to assure her that she has a friend.
But I did not get this instinct by accident...