The Fallacy Of “The Black Dot Campaign”Posted: September 24, 2015
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.
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
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.