I recently noticed a post being shared on Facebook for a campaign involving victims of domestic violence (DV) and a “Black Dot.” The black dot is supposed to be a symbol that victims of DV can draw on the palm of their hand to let professionals and others know they are involved with domestic violence but are unable to ask for help because the abuser is watching their every move. The Black Dot Campaign encourages everyone to post a picture of a black dot on his or her palm to show support for domestic violence survivors.
Campaigns to raise awareness about DV can be great. They create conversations, inspire blog posts, and draw attention to important social problems. On the other hand, some of them can also create the illusion that they are official programs, insinuate that professionals are trained and aware of the campaign, or even put survivors at risk for more abuse. While the Black Dot is intended to be a silent way for survivors to communicate their abuse, it may cause more abuse if discovered by the perpetrator. Survivors who try to use the Black Dot may attempt to show everyone their secret dot and then wonder why no one is responding to it or offering help. People who see it, might not have a clue what it is, what it means, or know what to do if they do recognize that the person needs help. As a provider who works with DV survivors, I think the campaign is a great start to creating discussion about domestic violence but I also think it is currently an unreliable method for helping people affected by abuse.
There are often a number of warning signs that can indicate someone is being abused in their relationship. Although a single sign may not indicate abuse, multiple “red flags” may suggest abusive behavior is going on. Here are eight ways to recognize abuse and ten ideas about how to help if you suspect or know that abuse is happening.
8 Signs of an Abusive Relationship:
- A person seems withdrawn and misses work or socializes with friends and family less often
- A person has a partner who seems unusually jealous or suspicious of the person’s behavior
- A person’s partner regularly criticizes, puts them down, or humiliates them around others
- A person seems unable to be away from the partner without receiving unending texts or phone calls that seem to be checking on or monitoring the person
- Obvious physical injuries including black eyes, bruising (especially around the neck or wrists), or broken bones that don’t seem to fit with the person’s description of how the injury occurred
- One partner does most of the talking and the other person seems nervous about saying anything in the presence of the partner
- A person expresses fear or says they don’t feel safe going home to their partner
- A person makes excuses for the aggressive, suspicious, abusive behavior of the other person
10 Things you can do if you suspect or become aware that someone is being abused:
- Offer to help the person get connected with local services, such as a crisis center or a local domestic violence agency which can help them with things from basic needs to protection orders.
- Offer to create a safety plan with the person. This might involve offering to keep an emergency bag for the person. Emergency bags contain copies of important documents like birth certificates and protection orders as well as emergency cash and extra clothing. The bags can be useful if the person decides to flee quickly.
- Offer to go with the person to appointments such as to court, to meet with police, to the hospital, or to the attorney’s office.
- Offer to watch the person’s children while they attend appointments.
- Offer to provide transportation to run errands or to attend appointments. Many DV survivors I’ve worked with have been isolated and are left without transportation during the day while a partner or spouse is away.
- Share your concern about the person’s safety and let the person know you’re there for support if needed
- Be aware that confronting the abuser could make things worse for the survivor; always keep the survivor’s safety in mind when attempting to help.
- Don’t provide unwanted help or try to rescue an adult DV survivor. Allow survivors to make their own choices about what they want to do and respect their decisions.
- Be aware that leaving a domestic violence situation is the most dangerous time for survivors and that there may be a variety of reasons why survivors stay in the relationship.
- Report child abuse. If you suspect or know that a child is being abused, report it by calling local law enforcement, statewide hotlines, or local CPS services.
What are your thoughts on the Black Dot Campaign? If you’re a DV survivor what things were most helpful to you during or after the abusive relationship? How did you tell others about the abuse?