One of the most frequent and consistent topics I have taught on over the years is the topic of nonviolence. I am firmly of the belief that following Jesus requires a commitment to living a life of nonviolent enemy love– something Jesus claimed was the ultimate evidence that one is a child of God.
When we talk about violence we often focus on overt, obvious acts of violence– physical punches, guns and deadly bullets, and other scenarios which we instinctively understand as being violent acts. While these are good scenarios to discuss, the reality we often miss is this: sometimes violence doesn’t always feel so violent.
A case in point is the story of 31-year-old Tiziana Cantone of Italy. Tiziana had participated in the recording of a personal, sexual video. She shared the video with a couple of friends she thought she could trust, but someone in that circle of friends betrayed her trust and shared it with the public.
Not only did this personal video become public without her consent, it actually went viral in Italy, making its way across social media platforms. She began to get recognized on the street. She had to quit her job. She had to change her name. She was constantly harassed by internet trolls, people made parodies of her on youtube, and she became the focus of MEMEs that mocked her. A line she said in the video even became a slogan that made its way to t-shirts.
In the end, Tiziana just wanted the one, simple thing, that most of us are actually afraid of happening to ourselves: she just wanted to be forgotten. She even made headway in winning a “right to be forgotten” case against some of the social media platforms where her video continued to be shared over and over again, without her consent.
While it may not seem so on the surface, Tiziana was the victim of horrible violence.
I’m sure it didn’t feel violent when her “friend” posted the video online without her consent. I’m sure it didn’t feel like an act of violence when others shared it so much that it went viral. I’m sure it didn’t feel like an act of violence when people made parodies to make fun of her, or when they opened up photoshop to make a mocking MEME.
I’m sure it didn’t feel like violence at all– but it was.
It was so violent, in fact, that Tiziana took her own life this week in order to escape it all.
The entire sad story reminds me that there is far more to violence than the typical acts we would classify as being “violent.”
Whenever we shame someone– whether slut shaming, divorce shaming, body shaming, or any other form of shaming, we commit an act of violence against that person.
Whenever we make fun of someone in a way they don’t find funny, in a way they cannot laugh along with us, and in a way that harms their self-image, we commit an act of violence against that person.
Whenever we betray someone’s confidence and trust, sharing things with others that we do not have consent to share, we commit an act of violence against that person.
Whenever someone wants to be left in peace, as did Tiziana, and we refuse to let them have the simple desire of being left alone to find freedom from social torment, we commit an act of violence against that person.
While there are so many lessons we can all learn from Tiziana Cantone, I hope her death will invite us to consider that sometimes, violence doesn’t always feel that violent.
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