The concept of domestic violence as a “personal matter” and not a community concern hardly qualifies as novel. With 175 million registered users on Twitter alone and 4 million Tweets every hour, social media has become the way of connecting with others. But as it extends beyond our personal lives, further-reaching opportunities surface in tandem to speak out about injustices that we see and are frustrated by. In doing so, domestic violence is one of those injustices that has moved from the private into the very public consciousness of a larger world. More of us are using social media to do good. An example of that is the recent case of Rumana Monzur.
Monzur, a Bangladeshi woman who had traveled as a Fulbright scholar to the University of British Colombia in Vancouver. She returned home in May missing her daughter and husband, to write her dissertation. After showing her husband pictures of her with a fellow male student, he attacked her, accusing her of having an extramarital affair. He gouged out her eyes, leaving her blind and severely traumatized her daughter who stood by.
Domestic violence victims sometimes experience shame around their attacks and often believe if they had acted differently, perhaps their partners wouldn’t hurt them. This shame is not unique and pervades many discussions around interpersonal violence, regardless of geographic locations. Victims often worry that if they speak out against their abusers, their character and actions will be questioned. This can be especially challenging when the abuser has become a part of the family. No one wants to believe that the person that they have come to accept as a son or daughter in law is actually an abuser.
While Monzur might have suffered from these fears, her family and friends encouraged her to speak out about the attack. A Facebook page detailing her attack as well as an online donation page for her recovery fueled by her family and friends were created so that her side of the story would be known. She also interviewed with a local Bangladeshi news station and posted the interview on Youtube.
The community of people who rallied around Monzur serves as a terrific example of how using social media can help all of us understand intimate partner violence as a public issue that collectively we have a social responsibility to eliminate. Across the world activists in every imaginable area use social media to challenge that culture of shame and offer instead, a culture of support for victims. These kind of public responses also put culpability back on the abuser where it belongs, rather than on the victim. One woman’s example also encourages other victims of abuse to feel comfortable sharing their testimonies, “I lost my eyes,” says Monzur. “I don’t want anyone to suffer like I am suffering. It is horrible.”
Using social media to build awareness about interpersonal violence in one step that we can take to be active bystanders for survivors. Social media also affords us the advantage of quiet activism, where we don’t need to be out in front at a rally or defending someone in a bar but behind our computer or smart phone. We can quietly type away words of support on our Twitter feed, a blog post (like this one!) or on our Facebook wall to our own network who influence us as we do them. Any small step can be a great step.
What are some ways that you use social media to help raise awareness around issues that are important to you? Leave us a comment.