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The Fallacy Of “The Black Dot Campaign”

I write a lot of silly stuff on my blog; I’ll get back to that with my next post. Today, I want to discuss domestic violence and a well-intentioned but bad idea making the rounds on social media.

Before I go too far into this issue, let me explain that I have been a part of hundreds of domestic violence prosecutions. I’ve written policy and lectured on the topic. I chaired a county board that advocated for abuse victims. This is not a topic on which I see much gray area. Abusers choose to be violent; it is always an unacceptable and criminal choice.

This is simple, the problem is not (image public domain)

It bothers me to speak against this idea. I know it is being circulated with the best intentions. But I’m going to tell you that The Black Dot Campaign is ill-conceived. Folks that spread the idea likely don’t realize that it is; they just want to help.

Whom Are We Helping With The Dot?

The critical piece to understand about violence in a relationship is that it is goal-oriented. The abuser’s goal is to maintain power and control over the victim.  The Facebook post circulating the Black Dot idea acknowledges this. It indicates that the dot is a way to get help when the abuser is “watching your every move”.

Abusers do watch their victim’s every move. They commonly monitor their victim’s communications, including phone, email and social media accounts. This dot on the hand thing is spreading to those guys as fast as it is spreading to the women it is supposed to be helping because those men are, at minimum, watching their partners’ Facebook accounts, if they’re not controlling the passwords.

In short, a dot on the hand would likely be a signal to an abuser that his victim intends to seek help. He will do whatever he feels he must to keep that from happening.

Additionally, do we know that the “professionals” who are supposed to understand that the dot means someone needs help have had that explained to them? If not, spreading this idea may be a disincentive to a victim seeking help. If the dot draws no response, how long will it take her to gather the strength to ask for help again?

If It Is That Important To You, Do More Than Click Like

Not such a good idea (image via facebook, edited)

Not such a good idea (image via facebook, edited)

It is time that we do more about the domestic violence problem than forwarding Facebook posts that make us feel as if we’ve done something.

Let’s all keep an eye on our community leaders. Budgets are always tight, domestic violence services are typically on the chopping block. Ensure that your elected officials are adding, not eliminating, these life-saving services.

We can offer opportunities for victims of abuse to come forward. Doctors can screen for domestic violence during routine exams. Clergy can support women who allege abuse by not asking them to go to marriage counseling. You can ask the difficult question when you see make up covering a bruise on a co-worker. And you can ask again when she denies the problem the first time and you see it again.

Most importantly, we must stand against this kind of abuse when we see or hear it. Too many of us hear our neighbors cries and do nothing. We “don’t want to get involved”. We make excuses like “she must have set him off” or “he’s a good guy when he’s sober”. No more excuses. Get involved. Dial 911. Tell the officers what you know. Testify in court; do it to protect that woman and her kids.

Whoever is behind the Black Dot Campaign has done an important service by using social media to keep us thinking about domestic violence. But I fear that the idea will trigger more abuse than it deters.

Match Her Bravery

Leaving an abuser requires a heroic effort. We will only eliminate domestic violence when we match the bravery of the people we hope to save.

Bravery isn’t forwarding a Facebook post telling an abused woman to mark her hand. Bravery is holding that hand when she goes to court. Bravery is listening to her cry. Bravery is hiring her for her first job after she escapes her abuser. Bravery is babysitting while she goes to counseling.

There are so many ways you can help. Clicking forward on The Black Dot Campaign is likely not your best option.

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19 Comments on “The Fallacy Of “The Black Dot Campaign””

  1. I was unaware of this. Thank you for info

  2. CR*S in VT says:

    Thanx for this Len. I ”Liked” it & posted it myself, also thinking it was a good idea to discreetly let the ”right people” know the person needed help. I def see your point & can’t believe I didn’t consider it when I posted it, like many others. You’re a very thoughtful man & I’m sure you excelled at your job, before retiring!!! Thanx again!! ~CR*S~

    • omawarisan says:

      You’re a good heart. I actually never saw it on yours, it just seemed as if it were suddenly everywhere.

      I probably wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with it if not for my work experience.

  3. I have never seen the black dot but I agree. It is truly brave to keep our eyes open and to help the person in need in the ways you suggested. I hope for cultural changes that end abuse, unfortunately I believe it will take many years.

  4. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Exactly my problem with this type of “activism and awareness”, especially having gone through this myself years ago. Good in spirit, but not well thought out. Thank you for writing this.

  5. There are no share buttons! Where are the share buttons?

    I had no idea about the black dot campaign. Thank you for the heads up.

  6. April says:

    I haven’t seen this before, but I completely agree. Every time we share a post about one person’s trick to escape an abuser, we’re removing an avenue of escape from a current victim looking for a way out.

  7. Linda Sand says:

    I agree that while the black dot may be well intentioned it is not a good thing. The best way I have found to help so far is to donate to the local women’s shelter so once an abused woman does get away she has a safe place to go and help starting a new life.

  8. Queen says:

    I’ve worked with abused women, and when i saw the post about the black dot on FB, my immediate first thought was, “Her abuser is seeing this as well…”. I did not click Like…Thanks for the PSA. Mebbe I’ll post this to FB…

  9. LRose says:

    A very good community service/PSA post. I learned something today as a result!

  10. hya21 says:

    I wasn’t aware of this campaign. Well said.

  11. Thank you for this, Len. I saw it blow up on facebook as well. I didn’t forward it and felt guilty about that. I couldn’t get my initial reaction out of my head. If I saw it so did all the people who are abusers and are on facebook. It felt like the kiss of death to me. I appreciate your point of view, having had the experiences you have had.


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