Domestic violence is a silent topic.
Victims hide it, survivors rarely talk about it, and society pretends it doesn’t exist. It’s the elephant in the room: everyone sees it, but no one wants to admit it is there. But ignoring domestic violence doesn’t make it go away; in fact, it is the silence that keeps the violence going and breaking the silence is the first step to ending it.
So what does breaking your silence really mean? Silence can be defined many different ways to different people and the way it is broken comes in just as many forms.
As a victim, you may have hidden your bruises, decided not to report the abuse and even taken the blame for someone else hurting you. You may have been isolated, afraid to tell others because they either didn’t help in the past or worried they would judge you. So you did what feels natural for a victim of domestic violence and kept silent.
As a survivor, you are in a different place. You are re-learning how to live without being controlled, picking up the pieces, and starting over, which can be both exciting and terrifying. You may feel a rollercoaster of emotions from being secure and free to angry and confused about missing someone who hurt you. Many survivors choose not to talk about the abuse, as if it didn’t happen. You may be reluctant to join a domestic violence group, call up an old friend, or reach out to an estranged family member. Like so many survivors, you may fear that you won’t be believed. It may bring up things you don’t want to remember or, worse, you might be blamed for staying, so you do what feels natural for a survivor of domestic violence and keep silent.
Believe it or not, many survivors find that talking about the abuse they experienced is a crucial step in healing. Sharing stories of abuse is also key to raising awareness, preventing abuse, and potentially ending domestic violence. It is a big step, one that takes courage and strength, but will empower you and encourage others to do the same. Stories like your own, reassure victims that they are not alone, offer support to survivors, and raise much-needed awareness within communities.
You have decided that you are ready to break your silence but have no idea how or where to begin. There are so many ways to get your story out there, ranging from sharing on a personal level with family and friends to using a larger scale, such as social media. You can join a domestic violence group and hear others stories, as you share yours. Every voice matters, and each time your story is told, you are growing stronger, encouraging others and raising awareness.
Talking about it, making domestic violence part of everyday conversation with family and friends, can make a difference. People are curious beings, they tend to want to know more about what they don’t understand. They may also ask questions, ones that society has led them to believe. This is your chance to tell them why you couldn’t leave, how not all wounds show up as scars, and how much support matters. A simple conversation can encourage one person to share their story or reach out to a friend they are concerned about, your story can make a difference.
Maybe you want to go bigger. You want to reach more people and raise awareness to a whole new level. Social media is a powerful tool that allows millions of people to receive information at their fingertips.
Breaking the silence is key to preventing abusive relationships, decreasing the likelihood of a survivor returning, and providing society with a realistic understanding of the dynamics of abuse. Whether you choose to share with family and friends, or to a bigger audience such as a blog, video, or speaking to a group, your voice will be heard. One story–your story–can create a chain of events that contribute to breaking the silence against domestic violence.
Written by guest writer, Rebecca Lynn from Break the Silence Against DV