Saturday, 26 September 2015

Black Dot Campaign.

I seem to have missed most of this terrible idea and I'm glad I did. I think it might have thrown me off track on a busy week.

Firstly, I feel a little bit sorry for the woman who created it. Let's not forget she is (or seems to be) a survivor. For that we should be gentle in our criticism because she will have had good reasons for trying to help others. Probably. I hope. Please don't let it turn out to be an abusive man.

This was a terrible idea for all the reasons that people have already stated. I won't repeat them. Women sharing their stories on social media may have put themselves at risk. Women using the mark... likewise.

I'll just add my brief thoughts based on my experience.

I was pointed in the direction of domestic violence services by a woman who clearly saw that I was being abused when I could not. I thank that woman. I thank her for the push. It was not always gentle. It was not always patient. It was not always quite right. However, she saved my life. The manner doesn't matter any more. Thank you.

When people look at me incredulously now and say "Shit. You were in that for a long time. Why didn't you know?" The truth is. I just didn't. It is hard to admit feeling stupid and I do feel stupid. There was so much out there to help me but I never saw it. I'm not stupid. Men have built clever walls between abused women and the women they need. People almost don't believe me when I say I knew nothing. How can I write as I do about abuse and so recently have been unable to spot what was happening to me?

You can be clever and capable and functioning and smiling and talking tough and dealing fast. You can be horribly abused at the same time. If there is such a thing as a "high-functioning victim" I suppose you can be that. I kept everything running. I kept myself on top. I worked. I parented. I partied. I wrote. I studied. I kept the fuck breathing. Because otherwise you die or go insane.

Why didn't I tell people? Because they already knew. I didn't need a dot on my hand. There were people around who knew all along. They assumed I was making choices. I'm good at making myself sound in control. I'm good at the whiplash wisecrack that covers up the inside splintering.

One woman years ago who knew... she advised me to stay. She said it couldn't be that bad and what might be the alternative could be very much worse. I listened. I stayed. I respected her. Another woman said "Don't tell me. I don't want to know. I like him." I was shocked by that for a long time and kept my stuff to myself. Whenever I stayed, for whatever the reason at that time, the other people around me sighed and moved away a bit. Putting a dot on my hand would not have helped.

In reality. I could have put that dot on in the morning but I'd have washed it off by noon as things started to feel better again. When I began to cope and he perhaps began to behave or apologise or make amends in some way. When some of my hope grew back the black dot on my brain rubbed off all by itself. So I thought. It never really does of course. My brain still has stains.

I think I would have been the Lady Macbeth of the Black Dot movement. Constantly trying to scrub off evidence that I'd tried to escape. Mostly scrubbing it off so that I didn't remember. My abuse was accompanied by amnesia. I seemed to purposely forget. The woman who helped me leave often said "write it down..." but I would start to do it and then stop. Something in me didn't want to stockpile the horror. Sometimes now I have a little flashback of a moment and it jolts me. Some incident that I haven't thought about for a long time and I think how totally bizarre that thing is and if a woman told me that story now I would be sitting her down for a long talk. I'd be doing the shoving and pushing as hard as I could. I understand Susan Brownmiller's frustration around victims for which she was so horribly attacked. I understand why she wants to scream "GET OUT!" at abused women. It isn't victim-blaming. It is anger. Anger that after all this time there are still women that are trapped. All kinds of women who cannot find their way to decent services no matter how hard those services are fighting to get to them. Brownmiller's anger is not at the women... it's at the men. It's at the system.

Marking yourself with a black dot is not the way. You don't need to brand yourself. Women who can help need to get to women who need helping. Women need to drag those women out of hell. By education, by being loud, by blogging and tweeting and campaigning and marching and petitioning and just shouting so loud in any way we can so that those women hear..... "GET OUT!"  So that the women can see the signposts to the path they need. It isn't a gimmick they need. It isn't a "secret" badge of biro that might mark them out for further and dangerously targeted abuse.

We have services. Fine women are working in those services and the black dot campaign seems to be suggesting that those women aren't doing it right. They are. When women are ready those are the services they should use. Those are the services that will give them the advice they need to get out safely. To get out ALIVE.

How we get those women to those services and how we make sure those services are properly resourced, funded and protected needs to be the priority. We don't need women putting themselves at risk by "sharing" in a campaign that is not properly co-ordinated by women with years of experience.

Thank you to all the women who work for women like me. I hope many more women find their way to you today.

Best wishes women,

JH x