Domestic Violence: Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz Unsilences the Silenced
Domestic Violence—Say you're a journalist and a mom. Say you get an assignment to write a piece about domestic violence survivors. Say you delve into this assignment with your usual professional zeal, not ever having experienced abuse yourself but anxious to share the real-life stories of actual survivors. You want to write a piece that puts faces to statistics in the readers' minds, so you search and you interview and you write.
In the end, your piece is built around seven women who nervously share chilling stories of violence inflicted on them by the men they loved. It is jaw-dropping. You can't stop thinking about those women, even after your assignment is complete. You witness the empowerment they experienced just by sharing their stories. You blog about this whole experience, and get a deluge of comments. So an idea for the sharing of more stories is born. ViolenceUnsilenced is born.
It is an idea born out of the concept that one of the key enablers of continued violence is silence, silence on the part of the victim because she is embarrassed, maybe unaware of how bad her situation is, or afraid of retaliation, and silence on the part of the abuser because he believes it's nobody else's business.
Domestic violence is, after all, a tricky business, since it is by nature something that occurs between two apparently consenting adults. But, says Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz, the journalist and founder of ViolenceUnsilenced, "I believe that perpetrators rely on silence and shame as weapons, and that for survivors, speaking out is both cathartic and empowering. I believe people are inherently empathetic, but we seem to care more about general issues when we personally know those affected by them. When we read the hard experiences of our loved ones on ViolenceUnSilenced we take more ownership in the epidemic of abuse that belongs to all of us."
All of the posts on ViolenceUnSilenced are indeed "hard," even haunting to those who read them. When Maggie first started the site, she had to "immerse" herself in them to select the two that would be focused on in any given week—it's limited to two so that those featured women can be assured their stories are being heard—to the point that she felt secondarily abused.
Today, she facilitates the site more positively and professionally, as ViolenceUnsilenced now has a board of directors and is beginning non-profit status incorporation. She limits the time she devotes to the site because she is still, after all, a full-time journalist and mom. She also focuses on and takes advantage of the many offers of help she receives, of which there are always more than she can avail herself of.
Ultimately, the power behind the site is it's simplicity: harnessing the great power of the Internet to air and amplify the stories of these abused women, and let them know they are heard and cared about. Most abusers rely not only on silence but also on the isolation they create around their victims; the internet can be a more surreptitious, safer medium for the women to reach out. And the power behind Maggie is her simple vision: "I don't think I'm out to change the world or fix everyone," she says. "I just want to help."
What are ways to give a voice to those in need? How can you harness the power of the Internet to help those in need?
Photo courtesy of Flickr.