Tonight this awareness campaign appeared in my Facebook feed: Black Dot Awareness.
I am incredibly thankful to Snopes.com for already knowing and writing about this so we can understand better what it is about. As someone who is a survivor and has studied domestic violence, intimate partner violence and abuse, and the incredible amounts of professional and serious studies that surround this delicate issue, I can truthfully say that this campaign is set to do much damage and should not be perpetuated under any circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. I have spoken out for victims and survivors for many years now. I have worked hard and written much on this topic, and I support awareness on this issue.
But I do not support this campaign and allow me to share several problems that present itself with this concept.
- It should be immediately noted that no professionals or authorities are trained to recognize this black dot because it is not an endorsed method of notifying authorities or healthcare professionals. This is simply not how victims and survivors notify professionals when they are in danger. Furthermore, when professionals are notified that abuse is occurring, they are not going to have the perpetrator arrested at that moment. More than likely they will counsel the patient or client that if they are being abused they need to consult with a domestic violence shelter nearby to get help. Most doctor’s offices and other professional healthcare facilities will have that information and will give it to the victim. They are trained in how to handle those situations in the way that has been found to be most effective and helpful. But most importantly, handling the situation requires delicacy so that the victims is not placed in more danger.
- Most victims who are being watched by partners who are stalking them are incredibly vulnerable to simply getting a hair cut. Any mark on the body is sure to garner interest from the perpetrator. Making a campaign out of this ensures that perpetrators know exactly what this symbol means and puts the victim at greater risk. The perpetrator may become combative at finding this symbol on their partner’s body.
- This campaign, while it comes from a person who truly wishes to help and could likely be worked out into something that might actually work, has not been tested or even consulted with professionals. No professionals, and no advocacy services, have endorsed this campaign. That is an instant red flag.
- The biggest issue with this campaign, as it came in my Facebook feed, was the request for everyone to wear this symbol as a sign of solidarity and to increase awareness. Well, if everyone wears this symbol, then how are professionals to know who is really in trouble? And if everyone wears this symbol, how is the victim supposed to maintain her confidentiality?
- That brings me to another delicate point – victim confidentiality. When victims begin to speak about being abused, they become highly vulnerable. If their abuser finds out they are talking about things that are going on, things can escalate very quickly. Any person that a victim confides in must be completely confidential about what is going on. Most of us do not have the training or understanding to be able to offer professional help to victims, and nor should we feel required to. The best thing we can do as their friend is to listen intently, validate their experiences, and encourage them to get help soon. We can help them find out what steps to take next, and we can help them financially. We cannot offer guard or protection, nor can we place ourselves between the victim and the perpetrator. We cannot become personally involved.
- Allow me to stress this enough: There are crisis centers and domestic violence shelters that are very capable of offering assistance and sanctuary to women experiencing domestic violence in a safe, confidential manner. Encourage the victim to reach out to professional services for assistance. It is a very difficult, hard decision to leave an abuser, and it never occurs in a single moment but rather by a long process of preparation. Do not expect survivors to leave immediately and especially do not attempt to force them. Survivors, when they are ready, are fully capable of doing so and stand a greater chance of successfully separating when they do so because they are ready. No one can rush that process.
- Please, if you wish to legitimately assist victims and survivors of intimate partner abuse, consult with professional agencies and shelters so that you can participate in safe ways. This is a serious matter and should not be taken into a single person’s hand to try to solve the problem and it certainly will not be solved with one person’s rash social media campaign. In fact, the damage that can be done is frightening.
It is painful to see misinformation being spread about something that already places individuals in danger for their lives. Please help true advocacy occur by working with legitimate organizations to volunteer, support, and empower.
Here are several legitimate sources to contact for assistance:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1(800) 799-SAFE
NCADV.org: 1(800) 799-SAFE (same as above)
These numbers are taken from the TEARS (Teens Experiencing Abusive Relationships) website:
National Youth Crisis Line
National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Center for Victims of Crime*
1.800.FYI.CALL(1-800-394-2255)*Monday-Friday 8:30am-8:30pm ET
Peace and crackers,