If you’ve spent any amount of time on Facebook over the last few months, you might have seen something called the Black Dot Campaign. The concept is simple: if you see a woman with a black dot in the palm of her hand, she is a victim of ongoing domestic violence and needs to be rescued. Women in this situation are usually being watched by their abusers all the time, and they cannot simply ask for help. The black dot, drawn on with a pen or marker, is theoretically a way for them to safely and silently communicate the fact that they are in trouble.
Social media users are being asked by the organizers to spread awareness of the Black Dot Campaign:
“Please spread the campaign, and post a picture of your hand with the black dot, to show your support to all survivors of domestic violence.”
I think the perpetrators of domestic violence are the scum of the earth, and I am all in favour of any measures that can help the victims. But in my opinion, this campaign – while being well-intended – is a terrible idea.
It’s not just a terrible idea because it is ineffective. As mythbusting website Snopes has pointed out, emergency responders do not recognize the black dot as a symbol of anything.
It’s a terrible idea because its reliance on Facebook is at odds with the idea that women who are being victimized have a “secret” way of asking for help, that they can reach out without their abusive partners knowing.
The problem is that the abusive partners use Facebook too. While we are using social media as a means to give victims a secret tool, we are also telling abusers what that tool is. The abusers, who are manipulative monsters posing as real people, are thus being handed yet another means to control and dehumanize.
If prisoners post an escape route on the prison’s bulletin board for all to see, their escape plans will be foiled by guards waiting at the escape route, and they will end up serving additional time.
If an abuse victim’s escape route is known to her abuser, she will be cut off at the pass as soon as she tries to use it, and the consequences will be severe. Extra restrictions, extra scrutiny, more beatings. Victims will be “punished” for trying to get away, or even for accidentally getting ink stains on their hands.
This is why I believe the Black Dot Campaign has to stop, or at the very least, be seriously rethought. The well-meaning attempts to help are, in fact, putting victims at greater risk of harm and reducing their chances of getting out of their abusive relationships.
Extra note: Worldwide statistics show that women are five to eight times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than men. Women are also far more likely than men to be murdered by their intimate partners. However, it should be noted that domestic violence does not have gender lines. Women can be abusive toward men, and both men and women can victimize same-sex partners.