One of the defining moments in my career happened just a few short months ago. I was speaking to a group of young women in college about healthy relationships and how to recognize the signs of dating abuse. The conversation became a little personal, and I began talking about a past relationship. While the relationship was not abusive, my partner exhibited unhealthy relationship behaviors. By telling my story, I opened the door for the women in the room to share their own to stories and support each other.
After the event, one of the women approached me and thanked me for being honest about my relationship. What stood out for me wasn’t the fact that she thanked me. It was that she said that I looked like I had the “perfect” life and wouldn’t be the “type” of person who would be in an unhealthy relationship. That single moment showed me the power of sharing our stories.
By openly talking about domestic violence and dating abuse, we can dispel the myth that there is a “type” of person who experiences abuse. Domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects all types of people – no matter their race, gender, age, education or income. There is not one “type” of domestic violence victim or survivor. Every situation is unique.
Also, when we speak out, we are acknowledging that domestic violence is a widespread issue that affects every community. Seeing a story play out every once in a while in the media can make it seem like domestic violence doesn’t happen that often. Well, it does. Domestic violence affects more than 12 million people each year in the U.S. With so many people in our country affected by abuse, we can begin to see the real and urgent need to expand resources, education and prevention efforts.
Finally, sharing our stories helps other victims and survivors feel less alone. Talking more openly about our experiences, when we feel safe doing so, might encourage others to come forward and find support. After all, abuse is never the victim’s fault, and no one ever deserves to be abused. The only person to blame is the person who chooses to be abusive. When we as a society understand this, we will go a long way in helping to erase the shame and blame that can keep victims and survivors from seeking help.
Today, and every day, I am committed to speaking out about healthy relationships, domestic violence and my own experiences. I hope you will join me and share how you #SeeDV with your friends, family, classmates and coworkers. By doing so, we can work together to create a society that doesn’t stay silent about domestic violence or ask why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship. We can shift the conversation and eventually create a world where domestic violence doesn’t exist.
Cameka Crawford is the chief communications officer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline and its youth-focused program, loveisrespect. For more than a decade, she has been committed advancing the communications and marketing efforts for corporate and nonprofit organizations.