In June, two cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) went viral on social media in Papua New Guinea sparking public commentary on the specifics of the two cases and the problem of IPV in PNG more broadly, writes PETER NASALE, RAYANNE NONGKAS and KYLIE MCKENNA
DESPITE similarities between the two cases, they received divergent responses from the general public regarding the attribution of blame and the actions of the female victims.
Social media offers a platform for community conversations on intimate partner violence (IPV) and reveals certain justifications for IPV in PNG that need to be addressed if we are to see a reduction in IPV cases.
Here we consider two different cases.
Case 1: Debbie Kaore
The first case involves Debbie, an international rugby player, boxer and Pacific Games gold medalist.
On the evening of June 4, Kaore was beaten in an attack filmed by a relative on a mobile phone.
The video, later posted by Kaore on Facebook, showed her being head-butted twice before being struck with a clothes iron.
The video, as well as images of Kaore’s injuries, were widely shared by Facebook users.
The alleged perpetrator of Kaore’s abuse is PNG Defence Force Lt Murray Oa, who was charged with the attack and released on a court bail of K1,200 by the Waigani Committal Court.
Commentary surrounding the case linked Oa’s actions to an earlier video posted by Kaore on the Chinese social networking service, TikTok.
Kaore’s video showed her and a male PNG TikTok user in a split-screen duet (a popular feature of the platform). Following the distribution of Kaore’s TikTok video, the subsequent video of Kaore’s beating received mixed reactions on social media.
Although mainstream media outlets published headlines suggesting the attack sparked outrage in PNG, many people used popular PNG Facebook pages to argue that Kaore’s beating was the consequence of her actions and that men are unfairly targeted as the perpetrators of violence against women.
Critics of Kaore’s TikTok video claim it was flirtatious and inappropriately showed her to be revealing skin (cleavage).
This was perceived by critics as disrespectful to Oa, who cared for Kaore’s children from a previous marriage.
Similarly, the Prime Minister, James Marape, used Facebook to condemn the attack and called on married couples to resolve disputes without resorting to violence.
Case 2: Jenelyn Kennedy
Two weeks following Kaore’s attack, details surrounding the brutal death of 19-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy were also released via Facebook.
On June 24, Dr Sam Yockopua, PNG’s Chief of Emergency, took to Facebook to describe the horrific image of a young woman whose body lay lifeless in Port Moresby General Hospital.
His gruesome description included cuts and scratches, a fractured skull and rope marks around her wrists, suggesting that Kennedy was tortured.
Kennedy eventually died from head injuries and bruised internal organs.
The accused murderer, Bhosip Kaiwi, is in Bomana Prison and awaiting his next court hearing.
In response to Dr Yockopua’s Facebook post, social media platforms blazed with backlash from the public, with many calling for Kaiwi to be given the death penalty.
The case also sparked protests in Port Moresby and renewed calls to wear black on Thursdays as part of a campaign to stand against all forms of violence.
While Facebook users questioned the circumstances which led to the torture and death of Kennedy, greater emphasis was placed on how doctors, family and friends had failed her and the cruelty of her death.
The two cases highlight several opportunities for using social media in responding to IPV in PNG.
These include, most importantly, the opportunity for women to share personal accounts of abuse.
Popular PNG Facebook pages also appear to provide a possible platform for:
- ADVOCACY on IPV in PNG;
- LEADERS and medical professionals to report and provide alternatives to IPV;
- THE general public to hold authorities accountable in the handling of IPV cases; and,
- CRITICAL debates on potential punishments to be enforced on the perpetrators of IPV in PNG.
Although social media can be used to share vile statements, it can also provide an opportunity for advocates and service providers to explore and challenge the potential attitudes that underpin IPV in this country.
What we learn should inform future awareness and prevention messaging.
This article appeared first on Devpolicy Blog (devpolicy.org), from the Development Policy Centre at The Australian National University.
Peter Nasale is a graduate researcher at the Post Graduate Research Centre, Divine Word University.
Rayanne Nongkas is an executive officer at the Centre for Learning and Teaching, Divine Word University.
Kylie McKenna is the author of Corporate Social Responsibility and Natural Resource Conflict (2016, Routledge), which explores the dynamic nexus of business, conflict and peace building in Bougainville and West Papua.