Recently, social media went absolutely abuzz over a deeply personal and well-intentioned campaign, which involves people placing a black dot on the palm of their hand to signify they are currently being abused and cannot speak about it because their abuser is watching closely. Called The Black Dot Campaign, this is meant to prompt anyone who then sees said black dot to either reach out to the abused individual or to seek help for them. Taking a moment to consider all the variables entailed, it’s not hard to see how the last step of this could be somewhat precarious. First, it presupposes that others are even aware that the black dot campaign exists and second it then requires the person who can identify it to take action, while on the flip side it, hasn’t allowed time for any people serving in professional roles with those experiencing abuse to learn about what it means. Most importantly noted, however, is the fact that should one’s abuser learn about what the black dot campaign means, and see it on the hand of the person they are abusing, then it has the potential to cause even greater harm and raise or re-activate the level of violence.
The original post (pictured below), which cited the use of #blackdotcampaign, also links to the campaign’s Facebook page which has since been taken down. According to Jezebel, as of yesterday morning, that post had been shared over 83,600 times, and the campaign had been featured positively in national press.
According to Snopes, The Black Dot Campaign placed the following statement on their Facebook page in September:
The Black Dot Campaign is to enable victims who can not ask for help verbally to ask for help with a simple black dot and people recognise this and help. This is a campaign to help the most vulnerable victims of Domestic Violence. They simply draw a black dot on their hands and agencies, family, friends, community centres, doctors, hospitals can recognise this person needs help but cannot ask for it.
Notably, about a week later, the Facebook page, which has since been taken down, then stated:
The original ethos for this campaign was to enable a victim to put a dot on their hand around someone they trusted to enable a conversation to start, so they could open that door and hopefully start a process of seeking professional help.This is an idea, thinking outside of the box, trying to open up the worlds eyes and ears to what is going on in terms of abuse. The idea came from a former domestic violence victim. Professional bodies have not been advised or trained in the Black Dot, what it symbolises and what it means.
When people contact us we open the gates of communication and put them in touch with people who can really help. Putting such a campaign on Facebook was about raising awareness on a social media platform This isn’t the solution that will help everyone, if anything it should help people realise what abuse is, how it affects people and how to access help. And most importantly SAFETY MUST ALWAYS COME FIRST. If you see a black dot or are approached by someone for help, if safe to do so take them to safety and get them in contact with the relevant agency. Intervention and support should only be done by professionals.
Still not convinced about the potential harms of the campaign? Check out what the following professional who works directly in the field of domestic violence awareness, prevention, and treatment had to say:
“The Black Dot Campaign is a very well-meaning idea, but a bad idea nonetheless. The campaign is getting a lot of attention, so abusers may also be aware of it. They might question why their partner would have the dot on their hand. A well-meaning family member could also see the dot, and inadvertently compound the violence. When would it be appropriate to use it? At the grocery store? At the doctor’s office? Someone who was being completely controlled would be told by the abuser that they want to be in the exam room, so the victim would not be able to tell their doctor that they were in a domestic violence situation.” – Dina Polkinghorne, executive director of domestic violence prevention organization Project Sanctuary.
Despite what the Black Dot Campaign has spiraled into, Wear Your Voice feels it is important to honor the original intention of the creator and founder, who is a British domestic abuse survivor who wishes to remain anonymous. She did tell the BBC that she never meant for the campaign to go viral, or for women to post selfies with black dots on their hands:
“When things go viral and worldwide, you kind of lose control. A lot of survivors are putting their dots on their hand, but that’s not what the original idea was,” she said. “I imagined it as a tool to start face-to-face conversations between friends or with professionals. I was basing it on my experiences and I was thinking, how could I prompt people to talk about domestic violence?”
She also noted that if it felt unsafe, she fully trusted domestic violence victims not to draw the dot: “Just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re stupid — you know yourself what is safe and what is not safe.”
At the end of the day, the message has been put forth and picked up by thousands of individuals who felt resonance with it – just as hard as it can be to get the ball rolling on a social media project is how hard it could be to end one. The Black Dot is now literally and figuratively in the hands of the domestic abuse survivors themselves, and only time will tell if the momentum continues on its own, morphs into another project, or comes to an end altogether. In the meantime, we encourage all survivors to check out our current campaign #KillTheSilence, which serves to provide a cathartic outlet for survivors as well.
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