What happened to #WhyIStayed?
(News Source: New York Times)
Does anyone remember this hashtag from earlier this year? Women who then tweeted/posted on social media about why they continued to stay in an abusive relationship, rather than leave, say that the response to their posts was very muted. Not many could relate to the situation. However, when the same women posted about #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. What is it about domestic violence, that people just don’t seem to believe or want to talk about?
The transforming effect of the #MeToo movement has been unprecedented. It has transcended the issues of sexual assault and abuse to becoming an empowering force for women. And it has made people sit up and recognize the omnipresent existence of sexual abuse in all walks of life, and how important it is to believe women when they get the courage to come out and tell their stories. But how does domestic violence fit into this scenario? With October being the month for the awareness of domestic violence, what steps can we take to ensure that this serious issue receives as much importance and coverage as its sister #MeToo movement?
Reports show that in 2018, the number of calls, texts and chats received by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and its youth outreach, has increased by 30% since last year. The #MeToo movement may have been a big contributor to this effect, but in these cases the victims do not feel safe expressing their views on public forums and social media. Their privacy is extremely important, because simply identifying themselves as domestic abuse victims ties them back to their ex-abuser, which does not bode well for their safety. This is quite unlike when a person posts generally about sexual harassment without naming their perpetrator.
The other reason #SurvivorSpeaks hasn’t taken off is due to the heavy social stigma the victim faces. When a relationship spans years of abuse, people begin to wonder and question if this was not a consenting adult relationship in some form. But what people fail to understand is there could be dire consequences for the victims if they indeed left, and then posted about it. So, in the absence of collective public outrage, and supporters for the victim, where does this conversation go? Hopefully it does not always rest upon the shoulders of a high-profile celebrity case for people to sit up and take notice and start a cultural movement.