One of the most popular internet sensations of the past couple years is the website Postsecret. For those who are not familiar with the website, it is a community art project where strangers send in personalized, decorated postcards with a secret that they have never previously revealed. The secrets cover a wide range of topics including sexuality, love, relationships, fears. Revealing the secrets is supposed to create a community of acceptance among readers, many of who might identify with the stranger’s secret.
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, the creator of Postsecret, Frank Warren, read the following secret aloud- “his temper is so intense, I have lost all my own opinions”. This is a sentiment that we often encounter here at Family Violence Prevention Center. Many victims, however, feel that they cannot speak about their abuse and so they carry the pain of their experiences inside, afraid to share them with others. There are a variety of reasons why this might be, including fear of their abuser, shame, lack of education about resources that are available, and lack of access to those resources. It is important to acknowledge that for every victim that we are able to help, there are still plenty more who are suffering in silence.
The presence of this seemingly domestic violence related secret on Postsecret, as well as others that relate to abuse, are important because they illustrate the power of dialogue to consciousness raising about an issue. Domestic violence is widespread and pervasive throughout our culture. It affects people of every age, income group, gender, race and sexual orientation, yet it is often only visible to those who are personally affected. Yet, how openly is it really talked about? When we talk about domestic violence or dating violence, we are acknowledging how the people affected and the repercussions of that abuse.
The fact that this secret was revealed on the radio helps to illustrate that many victims are forced to carry the painful feelings that result from domestic violence with them, instead of being able to reach out and get help. Clients often blame themselves for the abuse, wondering why they didn’t figure out their loved one would become abusive. The abuse is not their fault. But imagine how much different things might be if we taught our children from an early age what is okay and not okay to tolerate from a loved one. Programs like Start Strong, our primary prevention educational sessions, offered here in Orange County, help middle schoolers learn about healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships as well as how to be an active bystander if they see someone else being hurt. Preventative education is key, if we really want to start eliminating relationship abuse.
In the meantime websites like Postsecret, where victims can share their secrets without fear of reprisal, offer much needed comfort to those who suffer in silence. It also allows other readers who may identify with a secret know that they are not alone in their struggles. One of the strongest tools that an abuser has against their victims is isolating them from others, making them feel alone and forcing them to depend solely on the abuser. Postsecret helps diffuse that isolation.
At FVPC, we offer services such as our 24-hour crisis hotline so that victims can reach out at any time and have someone to speak to, as well as support groups, so that victims can share their experiences and support one another in these stressful situations. If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, you can call us at any time at (919) 929- 7122.