At the age of 82, I thought I was long past feeling the poison cocktail of emotions: shame, anxiety, fear, grief, anger and nothing that accompanied being a victim of domestic abuse. Then I read of the social media garbage thrown at high-profile women whose partners have humiliated, stalked, beaten, shot …. I’ll let you fill in the rest. If you’re reading this, you can probably extend the list for three or four more lines.
Now I feel all those feelings, but mostly anger.
The fact is, their celebrity doesn’t insulate the women who are calling out their partners’ cruel, violent behaviors. These women feel the same horrible feelings any of us do if we’re someone’s punching bag and they will continue to feel them for a long time.
Just as important, the fact that celebrities are targets of such viciousness has a multiplying effect.
Think of the abused woman or girl who sees what happens to such prominent women: child custody threatened, careers threatened, reputation smeared, even lives threatened. And this is happening to women with money in the bank and a network of support.
“Chilling effect” is the term we’re looking for here. The vicious attacks can not only stir up victims’ sense of powerlessness, they can also activate all the bad feelings abusers know so well how to exploit. Such social media attacks can discourage victims from reporting, from leaving, from talking…….which we know is the first step in getting free.
Connie Platt was co-founder of the Survivors Task Force, a committee of Colorado Domestic Violence Coalition.