The Powerful Way This Campaign Is Spreading Awareness of Domestic Abuse

September 17th 2015

Laura Donovan

The Black Dot Campaign is going viral on social media for encouraging victims of domestic abuse to seek help in a subtle way—by drawing a black dot on themselves to indicate that something is wrong. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S., and more than 10 million men and women are physically abused by an intimate partner each year.

"This is a campaign to help the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence," reads the campaign's Facebook page. "They simply draw a black dot on their hands and agencies, family, friends, community centres, doctors, hospitals can [recognize] this person needs help but can not ask for it."

The movement began about a week ago, but it has already inspired people who are abused to come forward and seek help:

Here's how people are responding to the campaign on social media:

While many have lauded the Black Dot campaign for increasing awareness of a problem that impacts millions, some have argued that it could backfire on the person trying to ask for help.

Facebook user Zoe Hammond left a similar comment on the campaign's Facebook page, "How does this help? Won't the perpetrators of domestic violence also know what the black dot means - so if they see their victim with this on their hand won't that potentially make the situation worse?"

The Black Dot campaign acknowledges that participating in the project might not be safe or ideal for everybody but that the greater intention is to let domestic violence victims know that they are not alone. It's one method.

"This isn't the solution that will help everyone, if anything it should help people [realize] what abuse is, how it affects people and how to access help," the campaign's Facebook page states. "[A]nd 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."

Changing the conversation

In another approach to helping and healing victims of domestic abuse, tattoo artist, Flavia Carvalho provides free tattoos for women looking to cover up their domestic abuse or mastectomy scars. Through her project, "A Pele da Flor" ("The Skin of the Flower"), she aims to help turn the negative experience of domestic abuse into something empowering and beautiful.

"I run the project alone, since no other tattoo artist has expressed interest in participating," Carvalho recently told the Huffington Post. "The project's name refers to the Portuguese expression 'A flor da pele' (deeper than skin), which speaks of how strongly we feel when facing an extremely difficult or challenging situation. 'A Pele da Flor' also alludes to the fact that all of us women are like flowers and deserve to have our skin protected and embellished."

She noted that women have thanked her a lot for helping them in this way and that she loves seeing the women express themselves freely on social media after coming in for her free tattoo services.

"The sense of affection, sisterhood, and camaraderie is deeper than I ever imagined," she said. "They contact me from all over the country, as well as from abroad. They come to the studio, share their stories of pain and resilience, and they show me their scars. Embarrassed, they cry, and hug me... It is wonderful to see how their relationship with their bodies changes after they get the tattoos. I follow many of them on Facebook, and I see how, after being ashamed of their scarred bodies, they now post pictures in dresses, and they look happy, changed. It is transformative."

According to Safe Horizon, the largest U.S. organization serving victims of domestic abuse, women ages 18 to 34 have the highest risk of falling victim to domestic violence. More than 4 million women are victims of physical assault and rape by their partners, and more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes annually.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, and are looking for help you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.