#IamJada: When abuse becomes a teen meme

Alicia W. Stewart | 7/21/2014, 6:58 a.m.
Jada, a Houston-area 16-year-old, was getting ready for finals week and looking forward to a summer hanging out with friends ...
Jada, a 16-year-old Houston, Texas teen, went to a friend of a friend's house party on June 1, 2014. Photos showing her unconscious and undressed, apparently taken at that party, were spread on social media becoming a humiliating #jadapose meme. She began speaking to local and national media to reveal the person behind the photos. CNN

— Jada, a Houston-area 16-year-old, was getting ready for finals week and looking forward to a summer hanging out with friends and finding a job.

On June 1, she went to a friend of a friend's house party. She recalls little of what went on that evening, she told CNN, but does remember passing out and waking up the next morning at another friend's house with her clothing askew.

Weeks later, she received text messages showing photos of her unconscious and undressed that appeared to have been taken at the party. Soon, those photos spread on social media, with Twitter users mimicking her passed-out pose and adding the hashtag #jadapose.

Jada and her mother filed a police report about the incident June 22.

"It is an active investigation," said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department. "We're following up on leads that have been given to us. We don't want to rush the investigation, because there are many facets to it."

In light of the photos and humiliating #jadapose meme, Jada might have chosen to hide in shame. But in a time when all aspects of teen life have moved from private to public forums, something unique happened: She took hold of the story.

Jada chose to show her face with the support of her mother, Sukiedia. (The family has not used their last name in interviews.)

The teen began speaking to local and national media about the incident and took a photo with the hashtag #iamjada to reveal the real person behind the viral photos.

"There's no point in hiding," she told a Houston television station. "Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that's not what I am and who I am."

CNN does not normally identify victims of sexual assault but is doing so in this case because the alleged victim is speaking out.

Jada isn't the only alleged assault victim moving to reclaim her name and image.

In 2013, Missouri teen Daisy Coleman spoke publicly with the support of her mother after claiming that she was raped by a popular member of her school's football team.

Last spring, a young woman took to Twitter to ask rape victims to share what they were wearing when they were assaulted, to knock down the assumption that their attire "asked for it." It led to a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #RapeHasNoUniform.

"With the case of Jada, the very technology that was used to make matters worse was used to improve matters," said Stephen Balkam, who has a teenage daughter and is CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute.

In the past week, as word spread about the #jadapose meme, messages of support have poured in.

"Rape isn't funny," one post says.

Social media users are adopting the #IamJada hashtag and posting photos of themselves with a fist raised in solidarity.

"This could be you, me, or any woman or girl that we know. What do we plan to do about this ugly epidemic? #justiceforjada," actress Jada Pinkett Smith wrote on her Facebook page.