This month’s first article is in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout October, hundreds of advocacy groups provide outlets for expression and avenues for education. Programming spans from community trainings to social media information campaigns to healing workshops and more. As a national campaign, DVAM draws attention to the fight against domestic violence.
What good is attention?
By Jillian Fan
Less direct than approaches like voting or lobbying, raising awareness for a cause is uniquely powerful. Public demonstrations and widespread campaigns impact the audience whether they are receptive or not through sheer visibility. Particularly in this technological age where public concern is fleeting, numbers alone generate buzz. To overcome the inherent apathy of humankind, people need this social pressure to be compelled to care about out-group issues.
The severity and breadth of domestic violence is grossly underestimated by public opinion. Domestic violence occurs in relationships of any type and affect people of all genders and backgrounds. It is not limited to physical abuse; rather, it includes, verbal abuse, sexual coercion, financial abuse, and other toxic relationship behaviors that make homelife unsafe. The various tactics that abusers use manifest power imbalances and issues of control that make it difficult, often near-impossible, for the victim to leave. Destigmatizing the issue and disseminating information ensures that people recognize red flags and become empowered to seek the help they need. Moreover, mobilizing forces like DVAM educate unengaged and unaware bystanders.
While everyone should believe survivors as independent entities the first time around, more voices are inherently louder together. It is harder to ignore a wave of advocates and deny their truths when both enough evidence and enough people back their side. It should not be a burden on survivors to fend for themselves; we must all together address ignorance with education and information.
Unfortunately, even beyond the uninformed, apathetic public, there lie the many who misconstrue survivor stories. The toxic narrative that any survivor would speak out to receive attention for themselves creates an unsafe environment where survivors cannot move on from their trauma or, worse, are discouraged from seeking help at all. Seeking help and speaking out takes inexplicable strength and never comes from a place of attention-seeking. It is often a matter of life or death, not a claim to fame. In fact, the attention from a court case or a news feature is often unwanted and further traumatizing.
Presenting a united front against domestic violence is essential to prevention and collective healing. The more light we shed on the truth, the more we can wash out misinformation and misconceptions. Empathetic people supporting survivors will let abusers know loud and clear that we will not allow domestic violence to go on in any form.