By Rebecca Lynn
What would our world be without communication? Communication is essential for society to function. Communication, regardless of what form it takes, allows us to have social relationships, ask questions, understand others, inform, and gain knowledge. Communication has always been a part of society, primarily through storytelling.
Telling a story is powerful; it allows us to discover our history, learn current events, explore new subjects, and gives those who hear or read our stories the ability to learn something new, that they in turn share with others. Some stories are told by people who weren’t involved, but help recreate and re-tell what occurred. However, sometimes the best stories are the ones that are told first hand, by someone who has experienced it and can accurately share their emotions and help others feel as if they were there.
According to Domesticshelters.org more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%), and more than 1 and 4 men (28.5%) in the U.S have experienced physical violence, sexual assault, or stalking by an intimate partner. Those statistics alone are staggering; however, the same article states that most cases of domestic violence are not reported. This means that there are victims who are still in relationships who have been terrified to ask for help. There are children without parents due to murder, or murder-suicides, that are not recognized as domestic violence. Some survivors are scared to speak up and don’t know how vital and influential their story is and can be for others if told.
The #MeToo movement provided a platform for victims of sexual abuse to speak out publicly. Celebrities came forward sharing their stories and society reacted, either victim blaming or dumbfounded that this was going on without their knowledge. Abusers started being held accountable for their actions, while others were defended. As the movement grew, more victims were empowered to speak out, consent became a hot topic, new services were created, and victims rights were re-evaluated. Regardless of how someone felt about the subject, they were talking about it and gaining valuable knowledge on an issue that had been ignored. By choosing to tell their stories, survivors all over the world were able to educate society, support others in similar situations, and make a change in how sexual abuse and abusers were viewed.
So, if the #MeToo Movement gave abuse victims the platform needed to make changes, why didn’t domestic violence victims and survivors join in and share their stories too? Most would see it as the perfect opportunity to shed more light on the topic of domestic violence. However, according to Amy Thomson’s article Crafting a Movement for Domestic Violence Survivors apart from #MeToo Movement, there are numerous obstacles for victims and survivors when it comes to publicly speaking out, and creating a domestic violence movement like #MeToo. Some of these hindrances include:
- Fearing retaliation from their abuser,
- Victim blaming
- Having nowhere to go,
- Being conditioned by the abuser to be silent,
- Lacking finances to support themselves and children,
- Fearing losing custody of their children,
- Lacking support,
- Receiving threats from the abuser of suicide and injury to pets, children or family
- Religious or cultural beliefs,
- Lacking support from family and friends who believe the abuser,
- Hoping that the abuser will change,
- Desiring to keep the family “intact,”
- Fearing deportation,
- Lacking self-confidence,
- Experiencing feelings of shame,
- Lacking trust in the legal system and
- Knowing that leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship.
It is not uncommon for victims to feel as if they are the only one in the world experiencing abuse at the hands of a loved one. In fact, isolation is a prominent component of abuse. What very few victims or survivors know is that they are not alone; statistics prove this and survival stories confirm how each story is unique, yet surprisingly similar. Sharing with others can give hope to a victim, strength to a survivor, or knowledge needed for an outsider to recognize when a victim needs help. Speaking out about the fear, reasons for staying, and intense control of the abuser assures others in similar situations that they are part of a bigger story. It unites victims and survivors and gives them the power to speak up, creating a chain reaction that forces society to listen and empowers change.
Breaking the Silence Against Domestic Violence, and other domestic violence advocates and organizations have made it possible for survivors to break their silence and share their story, aside from the #MeToo movement. Each survivor is different in the amount of time it takes to feel comfortable and confident talking to others about their experiences. Some prefer to have someone else put their story to words, so they can remain anonymous. Many express their story through poems, music, or simple discussions at the dinner table.
Others choose to go more public and write their own story, talk about it on social media, or speak in public. Every story matters, regardless of how it is told. Just one survivor story can encourage a victim to get help, speak up, speak, and even save a life. Every story has the potential to educate society, debunk myths, and get people talking about domestic violence. Your story can make a difference and combined with other survovor stories, they can make a change in how the world views domestic violence and holds abusers accountable.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.