Snapchat is a social media platform that allows users to send messages and pictures that disappear as soon as they’re viewed. Now it’s being used for a whole new purpose. A new Snapchat account called “Snap Counsellors,” is helping teenagers in India and across the globe come forward about their experiences surviving domestic violence, which often goes underreported in India. The account sends out images and video messages to encourage victims to freely talk about their experiences. According to the Times of India, 42 percent of Indian girls are sexually abused before 19. Moreover, a study found that 77 percent of girls who experienced sexual abuse between the ages of 15 to 19 said that it involved their husband or partner.

The account was created by Indians Rajshekar Patil, Avani Parekh and Nida Sheriff, and was launched earlier this month,TechInAisa reports. Parekh, a trained counselor provides counseling to victims and Sheriff provides information support. According to account’s creators, Snapchat’s discreet messaging system provides the perfect protection for those afraid to talk about their abuse. As is the custom on Snapchat, messages disappear immediately after they are viewed.

snapchat, social media, domestic violence, divorce“We realized that privacy and secrecy are super important for those in abusive relationships, especially for teens and young people,” Nida told TechinAsia. Although speaking about abuse is hard enough, the majority of young people in in India and Pakistan believe that certain abuse is justified. According to a United Nation Population Fund report, 53 percent of teenage girls in Pakistan and India believe that domestic violence — specifically physical abuse — is justified. In addition, the report found that 25 to 51 percent of teenage boys in Cambodia, India, Bangladesh and Nepal believe that wife-beating is justified. In America, “young women between the ages of 16-24 in dating relationships experience the highest rate of domestic violence and sexual assault,” according to Iris Domestic Violence Center.

The rates of domestic violence against young Australian women is “as high, if not higher” than it was 20 years ago. This is just one of the shock new findings – presented at UN headquarters yesterday by Queensland professor Gita Mishra – highlighting that gender equality and empowerment of women has done little to eradicate the scourge of intimate partner violence. Prof Mishra, from the University of Queensland, is attending the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. She is presenting findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, a study that involves more than 58,000 Australian women and provides about two decades of data.

“ALSWH data indicates that intimate partner violence affects women of all cultures, occupations and education levels in Australia, but a couple of groups are particularly vulnerable,” Prof Mishra said. “Of women who report having experienced intimate partner violence by the age of 40, more than a third had their first child before the age of 25.”

DV Connect chief executive Di Mangan believes that while Australia is making progress with gender equality, the surge of violence against women on social media and as a form of entertainment is working against the fight to end domestic violence. “Domestic violence is now a public matter, but in private there is a whole generation of young people glued to violent pornography, which perpetuates the idea that violence against women is acceptable,” she said.

snapchat, social media, domestic violence, divorceThe NSW Police Force are putting further pressure on perpetrators of domestic violence following a public outcry over a number of high profile cases in which victims of domestic abuse were killed or seriously injured. As part of a radical trial program Suspect Target Management Plans has been adapted to target those who commit violent acts against their partners. The program, which previously focused on catching a wider net of criminals, has been in place since October.

“To repeat domestic violence offenders who continue to offend – it’s going to be zero tolerance,” Sergeant Allison Guthrie told A Current Affair. “We know who are the most violent. Perhaps there’s an AVO in place, the ones that we see the most – they’re the ones that we target.” Since October, numerous charges have been laid, four offenders have been jailed and four others didn’t offend while being managed on the program.

“To turn the tables around and go to the offenders and make them accountable for their actions, and seeing it work – it encourages us to keep going. Because this is going to be a long term thing,” Sergeant Guthrie said. “We’re going to watch them. We’re going to watch them very closely and we’re going to make them accountable for their actions.”

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