“We know our incident led to very important discussions to hashtags of ‘why I stayed’ and ‘why I left.’ If it took our situation becoming headline news to show domestic violence is happening in this country, that’s a positive.”
– Janay Rice, ESPN Interview
On the heels of two emotional, high profile interviews, the public is asking hard-hitting questions about domestic violence. And after being so critical of Janay Rice regarding her initial statements, many are attacking her for speaking out again.
What’s a survivor to do? At home you experience private trauma. When you speak out, you experience public trauma.
Much can be argued about the definition of a victim, the cycle of violence, and abuser rehabilitation. But one thing that cannot be disputed is a truth that Janay alluded to: everyone is talking about domestic violence and the conversation began on social media.
The response to #WhyIStayed established this: victims are on the internet. We may not know them personally, but they are present. For an issue that’s typically discussed in secret, survivors are courageously speaking out in large numbers. Domestic violence and sexual assault found a megaphone by way of the internet; it is safe to say that domestic violence awareness went viral in 2014. How do we carry that energy into 2015?
Social media users are more likely to share their opinions if they find someone who agrees. For me, this reiterates the importance of community. #WhyIStayed created a global collective action that is poised to carry forward into 2015. And let me just say, I want every victim of domestic violence to know that I want to hear from you. You’ll find understanding, a listening ear, and shared experience among advocates online.
We have to be innovative in our approach to helping victims of violence. Take a moment and look around you; we are in the internet age. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people you know use some form of social networking. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that 74% of all internet users are active on a social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Social networking also decreases the likelihood that the user is socially isolated and cut off from social ties, which is an abuse tactic. A person who uses Facebook more than once a day scores higher on the social support scale.
But it’s not all good news: social networking offers a gateway to victimization. A man was recently convicted of making five counts of interstate communication of illegal threats toward his ex-wife on Facebook. The Supreme Court is now hearing his appeal.
Let’s be clear: domestic violence victims can be tracked, stalked, and harassed online. It is our duty to counteract that. We have a “right now” opportunity to interrupt violence by means of social media. Do you see it? Advocates have to be just as loud and proactive as perpetrators. We must show that we are present; that we sincerely care and are available to help. We have an opportunity to enhance the way we help victims of domestic violence. Let’s use social media to our advantage in 2015.