A picture speaks 1,000 words. That’s how the saying goes. But how about what it doesn’t say? We are surrounded by images day in and day out and generally, we take them at face value. I mean, why not. Take this Nike advertisement, for example.
Seems harmless enough, right? It’s just a photo of a woman wearing their brand while working out. But what is this picture not saying? Take her posture for instance. Granted, it shows off her strong muscular figure (thumbs up Nike!), but look at the angle of her back. It is slightly arched, showing off her bottom quite nicely, wouldn’t you say?
Now take a look at this advertisement, also by Nike.
See a difference? Well for one, this man is fully clothed and is depicted to look like he is flying through the air. His posture is supposed to represent talent and the ability to make a slam dunk, which is reportedly not an easy task. Look again at the picture of the woman. She is being tethered by a sling, which ideally is supposed to represent strength and determination. However, this picture is able to illustrate the same concept despite the fact that he is flying through the air with the fluidity of water. He has no tether to the ground and no gravity holding him back from achieving his goal, yet we still see determination.
This is an example of how we are so prone to accepting pictures and images at face value. We are trained not to look beneath the surface to find meaning behind it.
Have you ever looked at someones Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and said to yourself, I wish I had his/her life? I have! Guilty. I’ve actually gone page to page just “window shopping” for what I wish i had. How envious are we of people whose private lives we are not a part of? How badly do we look at pictures of “happy couples” or that “perfect family” and wish we had their lives. I see their life and compare it to mine. I look at them and say, “I want that!” But what am I really looking at? Am I looking at a perfect life or a just a perfect moment? We project our own picture perfect fantasies onto the images we see so we don’t have to accept our own reality. We turn a blind eye to things to things that may cause us unhappiness or distress because it’s easier.
This image was circling Twitter during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and every time I look at it, I get the chills. I remember thinking, how accurate is this?
The U.S. department of housing and urban development reported that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. 1 in 3 female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner. But abuse does not discriminate. Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender (although largely faced by women), race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or income.
Ever walk into a room and feel like all of a sudden the room got quiet and everyone is staring at you? The once chatty crowd has now come down to a dull whisper and you are almost certain the conversations are about you. Imagine that feeling every where you go. People talking about your visible wounds, the rumors they’ve heard, and how awful they feel for you. Thats the life of a domestic abuse victim every day. A topic that society is often too shy to discuss openly is somewhat of a conversational piece behind closed doors.
There is a stigma attached to victims of abuse. The word itself: victim, has such a connotation and label surrounding it. Many times they refuse to come forward for help. Only reaching out to hospitals for help when their wounds can’t be tended to at home. Unlike child and elderly abuse, hospital personnel are not required by law to report this abuse. Only if the victim asks that the crime be reported is an official complaint made. More times than not they go back to their abuser. You may judge them for going back to the lions den and putting themselves at risk again. The reasons vary from lack of financial independence to feelings of guilt brought on by the perpetrator. Abuse is not just physical. It is also psychological and emotional. No victim is to blame for any occurrence of domestic abuse or violence. But months of psychological torture lead the victim to believe that the fault lies within them. That changing some part of themselves will pacify things at home. When the reality is that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.
Many times the ones who suffers the most in abuse are not even addressed. Children. The innocent and silent bystanders. Family violence creates a home environment where children live in constant fear of their surroundings. Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. Research shows that children who witness domestic violence show more anxiety, low self esteem, depression, anger and temperament problems than children who do not witness violence in the home. The trauma they experience in childhood can actually show up in behavioral and social disturbances in adulthood. If children cannot feel sense of security and safety within the home, how are they to find it outside in the real world?
Chances are you already know someone who is going through this problem right now. Maybe it’s the man behind the counter at the coffee shop you see every day, or the couple you sit next to at church, or your child’s school teacher. Instead of talking about them as victims, it’s important to refer to them as survivors. Because that is what they are. They are survivors of pain, torture, and neglect. They are survivors who endured a traumatic experience and came out of it a stronger person.
We have the ability to decrease the stigma around victimization. We have the ability to offer our support and empower individuals who were abused to use their voices to spread awareness and generate real change.
So no more accepting things at face value. No more turning a blind eye because it is easier. It’s time we stop being afraid of controversial issues and start being more comfortable talking openly about them. Let’s educate ourselves on the signs of abuse. Let’s stop the judgement in our communities.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, contact the 24/7 National Domestic Violence hotline. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.