Raising awareness of an issue (or attempting to do so) is usually an act rooted in good intentions. But how you go about amplifying a cause matters.
Strike the wrong chord and negative feedback can become louder than the message initially intended to reach an audience.
That’s what seems to have happened in the case of a new viral TikTok trend.
Videos are being uploaded under the hashtag “POV” (meaning “Point of View”) that show TikTok users simulating dark scenarios like domestic abuse or being kidnapped.
And while the trend isn’t new per se – Daily Dot reports POV TikToks of this nature were being uploaded as early as June 2019 – a rise in domestic abuse during the coronavirus pandemic is bringing the spotlight back on them.
Experts have warned lockdown conditions could trap vulnerable people with abusers and have predicted an “abuse pandemic” in the coming weeks.
Domestic abuse organisations have already said there’s been a “worrying” drop in calls they receive.
Meanwhile bored TikTokers are turning to the platform even more frequently.
TikTok doesn’t list content by the date it was uploaded either, just views. So videos made weeks ago can suddenly go viral when they become relevant to news headlines.
Which means TikToks like user Jennifer Jordan’s are circulating again.
In a clip captioned “#pov you go on a date with your abusive boyfriend and it doesn‘t end well”, she smiles as she applies make-up and accessories.
But then the camera cuts to her with make-up applied to look like bruises and tears in her eyes.
Taylor lipsyncs to “Bored” by Billie Eilish as she wipes fake blood from her nose and cries.
Some TikTok creators even claimed that TikTok removed their POV videos.
Twitter user Amelia Bell posted a video showing a young woman lipsyncing to Lily Allen’s single “Not Fair” as make-up ‘bruises’ multiply on her skin.
It’s a particular interpretation of the domestic abuse POV style that was started by a British teenager in January.
In her Twitter post, Amelia wrote:
Hi everyone, TikTok took this down probably because they are too scared to show the graphic reality of domestic abuse. 0808 2000 247 domestic abuse helpline.
However difficult a situation you are in please tell someone. I promise it will get better. There is an escape!
In response to backlash, she posted an Instagram message she claimed she’d received from someone who identified themselves as a victim of abuse and said Bell’s post had been “very honourable”.
“For everyone giving me hate... if I’ve helped one person then all your opinions are Irrelevant,” Bell captioned the image.
The intentions of the TikTok creators seems to be pure.
Jennifer Jordan told the Daily Dot that her motivation was to “raise awareness” and “to let people know that being in a relationship with someone abusive will never end well”.
But people are debating whether simulating abuse for TikTok views is really the best way to inform people about the issue.
Some were summarily unimpressed.
Others said they just wished the TikTok makers posted trigger warnings.
Some wanted the videos “taken down”.
Others seemed supportive of the trend though.
But in a comment to Daily Dot, an anti-abuse activist said the trend was “harmful”. Miriam Torres, creator of affirmation card project Because of What Happened, said:
Helping people identify abuse doesn’t need to be re-traumatising and that’s exactly what those kinds of videos do.
They re-traumatise people who are trying to heal.
We have to say: no matter the intention, cosplaying as an abuse victim might not be the most effective way to raise awareness.