Domestic ‘Abuse’ Timelapse: A Serbian Woman Taking Horrendous Selfies Is Just Another Marketing Stunt

By    |  July 29, 2014

At first glance, the background music and setup of the video look familiar: another person on YouTube doing a time lapse video of themselves in the most vain way possible – capturing an entire year’s worth of selfies.

Soon, however, you realize that something’s different about this effort. The woman in the video is not showing off her fashion wardrobe, or even the changing seasons.

Rather, she’s sharing an intimate look into what she terms, “One photo a day in the worst year of my life” – or in Serbian, “Jedna fotografija dnevno u najgoroj godini života” – all in an apparent effort to shed light into the dark world of domestic abuse sufferers.

Netizens As Easy To Dupe As Ever

As the horrifying video progresses, viewers witness the attractive young woman’s face grow evermore contused with bumps, bruises, scratches, and – eventually – open wounds, until near the end of the video the woman’s left eye appears so badly injured that she can barely open it, as she tearfully holds up a sign that loosely translates to mean, “Help me. I do not know if tomorrow will come.”

Despite being over a year old now, hundreds of blogs and websites continue to circulate the video, as thousands of internet users discuss how to save the poor girl, and rumors abound that police in eastern Europe are searching desperately to find her.

The only problem? The video is fake.

In the age of click-bait journalism, it seems that few people have the time or sense to put in two minutes of due diligence research. Instead, stories like this one – which went viral in part due to its appearance on Reddit – are surrounded with false rumors – for example, that the woman is from Croatia, or that she’s planning to kill herself.

Approximately one month after the video was released, Belgrade-based marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi came forward to claim responsibility for the project, which was put together on behalf of their client, B92, a Serbian non-profit organization apparently focused on fighting domestic violence against women, among other goals.

Telegraf.rs, a magazine based in Belgrade, was actually able to identify and contact the woman in the video within three days of it being published on YouTube in March 2013, who they identified as a fashion model who lived and worked in Italy:

When we called her, Mia was visibly upset and surprised how on the Earth we managed to get to her, because it was more than obvious, that the creators of this project attempted to conceal the identities of people who had made this disturbing video.

“How did you find me? Sorry, I can’t tell you anything, nothing at all. The last few days, were completely crazy! Please understand me, when I say that I wouldn’t like to give any official statements on this occasion,” said Hujic.

But of course, none of this seems to have reached the millions of people – or websites – that continue to perpetuate this story many months later.

Viral Marketing: Where Is The Line?

Takeaway: despite clear signs that YouTube user fero061982 seemed to be a fake account, and that her “domestic abuse” time-lapse video appears professionally edited with perfect lighting and exceptional photography skills, the majority of the internet was easily duped into believing it was real. Surely, its not the first nor will it be the last time that a clever viral marketing gig or April’s Fools Day joke is successfully executed.

That being said – when does viral marketing cross the line?

In September 2013, an organization called FORCE with the slogan “Upsetting Rape Culture” contacted CollegeTimes using fake email addresses @playboyco.com pretending to represent Playboy Magazine, promoting an alleged marketing event, “Top Ten Party Commandments: The Ultimate Guide for a Consensual Good Time!”

Their goal was simple: to piss off Playboy enough to get national media attention, and hopefully embarrass the magazine – and any other company that promotes female sexualization – for encouraging a so-called “rape culture” in the United States. (They even setup a fake Playboy website, with a falsified interview with Hugh Hefner himself.)

Needless to say, the CollegeTimes team was quick to spot the scam and ignored the fake inquiries. Over the next few days, FORCE played up their “trick” with much fanfare, getting mentioned in a variety of blogs and magazines for their efforts.

Now, are the intentions of a group like FORCE commendable? Most definitely. Rape, like domestic abuse, is a horrible thing that should be publicly addressed by governments and victims alike. But at what point do these so-called viral marketing campaigns just make their organizers look desperate and stupid – or worse, hypocritical?

Frankly, I’m not sure. However, it just doesn’t seem like trickery, jokes, or internet memes are the best way to promote certain topics (i.e. the naked feminist dichotomy). After all, we’ll never know how many concerned police officers or world citizens were – or still are – scrambling to find the supposed “domestic abuse” victim in Serbia.

Does The End Justify The Means?

Back in December 2012, Serbia ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence which now obligates their government to track incidents of violence. And those numbers are some of the highest in the world, in a country still hugely traumatized by the effects of war.

And you wanna know the truth? I would never have researched any of this information unless I came across that fake viral video to begin with.

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11 Comments on “Domestic ‘Abuse’ Timelapse: A Serbian Woman Taking Horrendous Selfies Is Just Another Marketing Stunt”  (RSS)

  1. The video alone is so powerful! A great tool to get a message out about DV. So why lie about it? It gets its point across without acting like it was real. I’ve learned to read comments, before clicking on “click bait” but I am glad I got to see this video. I just wish they didn’t feel the need to be deceptive.

  2. “But at what point do these so-called viral marketing campaigns just make their organizers look desperate and stupid – or worse, hypocritical?”

    At no point will it happen. Editorial campaigns increase awareness. This is a successful campaign.

    The question you pose is in itself stupid and hypocritical.

  3. Things are often not what they appear to be.
    – Anonymous

    It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
    – Carl Jung

    We don’t see things as they are,
    we see things as we are.
    – Anaïs Nin

    People only see what they are prepared to see.
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The beauty does not live out there; the beauty’s in my eyes.
    – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

  4. What an awful, insensitive article…

  5. For some reason, I can not believe the video is fake. I’ll be praying for her.

  6. Fake or not.
    Still a great video on the effects of abuse

  7. Your article, while understandable on wanting to find the truth, is disturbing. As a journalist you have a duty to seek answers but why did this video cause that type of reaction in you? Domestic Abuse isn’t an idea, it is a reality that needs to be thrown in the faces of everyone. Men & women alike know that human beings are abused by those they love but what is done? All your article does is try to debunk the meaning BEHIND the video. And I thought wow, a woman wrote this? Upon going to your google+ account, I see you are a man. No offense, but seriously? You saw this video of ‘an abused’ woman & immediately went about disproving it. “Trickery” as you call it in your article is what sells the truth to those who refuse to see it. That my friend, is journalism. As a communications major at the University of Denver, the video did exactly what it was intended to do. Thank you for your research, I can rest knowing that this beautiful lady does not actually get beat up on a daily basis.

  8. Mia Hujic is NOT a Serbian name. It’s CROATIAN.

  9. Regardless of this being fake, this sends a strong message. In fact it would be cruel to force a woman to endure this for a year to make the video. Regular abuse could mean they’d be dead long before the year is up. I agree with this form of advertising, but only when its hitting on an important subject such as this. Domestic violence is real, and men and women feel trapped. This could give them the courage to come forward and get out of the abusive relationship.

  10. Whats her name? i would like to be her good friend. She is so beautiful, with an innocent face… So sad of seeing this video ;(

  11. Regardless of this video being fake, it sends a powerful message about the disgrace that domestic violence is. And there are women out there who are injured that badly on a regular basis.

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