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What Role Does Domestic Violence Play in the #MeToo Movement?

The #MeToo movement has brought a tremendous amount of awareness to sexual violence. The movement has created a community of advocates across the country that are willing to have challenging conversations to find solutions to sexual abuse and harassment.

This movement is a response to flagrant abuses of power by figures in Hollywood and the political world. It seems that some powerful men, like our own president, can deny sexual assaults on women and be believed. They can even stand before lawmakers after accusations are brought forward and go on to serve as a federal judge. It's hard not to feel despondent when faced with these high-profile, brazen offences.

However, the movement is not without its faults. The supporters of the #MeToo movement have gained much attention in recent years, but they haven't always been kind to others who've been abused. It might even seem that they pick and choose their definitions a bit loosely.

Sexual violence includes any sexual activity done without consent. The perpetrator is usually known by the victim, meaning it might be a friend, family member, neighbor, or former partner. This definition of sexual violence might sound similar to domestic violence, which is the abuse of power between two people in an intimate relationship. It is often the product of individuals with poor behavioral health who rely on violence (and sometimes substance abuse) as a coping mechanism. It happens in couples who are married, dating, or living together, and it can include sexual abuse and violence.

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, you might think that describing the incident and tagging your post with "#MeToo" would bring about support and advocacy for your situation. However, many victims who used the hashtag on social media have been met with little support and sometimes even criticism. Here's a look at domestic violence in the wake of the #MeToo movement:

Understanding Domestic Violence

It seems that our society is full of violence these days. Turn on the TV and you'll be met with stories of complete strangers hurting others, sexual abuse in nursing homes and other institutions, or stories of healthcare workers having to combat violence in the workplace. If you've ever been a victim, you probably understand the feelings of isolation and the need for a support system after the event.

Domestic violence is a dark time in the life of the victim, but sharing their story can bring healing. Many victims describe feelings of isolation and never being quite sure how the perpetrator will treat them from day to day. The abuse may be severe today, but tomorrow could be filled with compassion and apologies. Perpetrators often keep victims away from family and friends because it's easier to control someone who is isolated.

Many victims fear abuse that could leave them severely injured or even dead. Intimate partner violence can be a confusing time for the victim. They may feel connected to their abuser and fear leaving. This fear can keep them silent. Add in the horrific possibility of leaving children behind with an abuser, and you might be able to understand why victims stay far longer than they should.

It's estimated that 20 people are abused every minute by an intimate life partner. This type of abuse is a federal crime, but state laws can change the outcomes of cases. Domestic violence happens when there is a threat of or actual physical harm between people who live together or in the past, are married or have been in the past, or any couple who has a child together. Most domestic violence victims are women. Signs of domestic abuse include harassment or stalking by the partner, the victim not having access to finances, controlling or manipulative behaviors toward the victim, and evidence of sexual abuse.

The Intersection of Domestic Violence and #MeToo

Those last two words -- sexual abuse -- might leave some domestic violence victims feeling a sense of belonging to this powerful movement. However, talks of intimate partner violence aren't always embraced quite like stories of sexual harassment in the #MeToo movement.

A New York Times article shared the story of Kaylee Kapatos, a domestic violence survivor who publicly shared her story in October of 2018. She imagined being supported by other domestic and sexual violence survivors alike because of the power of #MeToo. However, she was met with minimal support -- and only from close friends and family. Kapatos told The New York Times, "People just don't want to talk about it," referring to the abuse that happens between intimate partners.

Victims often suffer in silence for fear of their safety. They don't have the buffer of a different location between themselves and their perpetrators like many victims of sexual violence. Some victims feel that sharing their stories could expose a former partner as an abuser, and when this person is the father of your children, the situation becomes far more challenging. Not to mention that for decades, domestic violence was viewed as a private "family problem" that no one wanted to discuss openly.

Many of the perpetrators behind #MeToo stories are anonymous. They might be a former schoolmate, coworker, or friend. The risk of coming forward, while still palpable, might not be the same as outing your child's dad. Issues brought up under the #MeToo movement also seem to have the common theme that once one victim comes forward, others feel a sense of strength that allows them to speak up too. For victims of domestic violence, they are usually alone.

#SurvivorSpeaks: Domestic Violence's Own Hashtag

When sexual abuse is part of domestic violence, it's treated differently. Victims are often blamed for staying, even when their reasoning is related to the fear of ending the relationship or placing children in harm's way. And being met with questions like, "Why don't you just leave?" can be defeating.

Where do we go to create a movement for domestic violence that's as powerful as #MeToo but more specific to those affected by abuse at the hands of a partner? In 2018, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence introduced #SurvivorSpeaks as a movement to debunk the myths of intimate partner violence. When survivors speak and support one another, it's powerful. We've seen it work for the #MeToo movement. Now, it's time for society to support these victims too.

Posted by Magnolia at June 21, 2019 9:45 AM
Comment #445150

Why must Democratics used lies to introduce their grievances?
This looks like an episode of “The ends justify the means”.

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 21, 2019 8:28 PM
Comment #445274
A New York Times article shared the story of Kaylee Kapatos, a domestic violence survivor who publicly shared her story in October of 2018. She imagined being supported by other domestic and sexual violence survivors alike because of the power of #MeToo. However, she was met with minimal support …
Victims must come forward (i.e. report violence to the police), because there may be no other solution.
Few people (if anyone) will do it for them.
Violence is illegal.
IF #SurvivorSpeaks and other organizations can support and help convince more victims to come forward, and use the existing laws to help them, then it could improve their lives (and possibly their children too), and also help hold the abusers accountable (as it has with the #MeToo movement).
Otherwise, things could eventually end much worse.
Posted by: d.a.n at June 24, 2019 11:58 AM
Comment #445286

People who lie to make a point should be criticized, not believed. What happened to Kavennaugh was a crime and should have been treated as such. His accuser didn’t make it any easier for Kapatos and SurvivorSpeaks.

Magnolia shouldn’t be using lies about what Trump said on the bus to make her point. She could have used Wienstein or Biden to open. Facts carry more weight.

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 24, 2019 6:50 PM
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