When the Facebook page for the Black Dot campaign went viral last week, it quickly garnered over 40,000 likes, millions of views—and more than a few critics.
The concept behind the campaign was simple: victims of domestic violence could draw a simple black dot on their hands (with mascara, a pen, whatever they had available) to discreetly show law enforcement or another professional that they needed help.
On Sept. 13, Facebook user Jenn Hunton posted a call to support the campaign: “The black dot on the hand lets professionals know you’re a really vulnerable domestic violence survivor, and that you need help but can’t ask because your abuser is watching your every move.” Her post was shared over 80,000 times.
Going viral drew criticism of the campaign. When I posted Hunton’s photo to my own timeline, an attorney friend responded skeptically: “If your abuser is ‘watching your every move,’ won’t they notice you putting dots on your hands?” Another friend, a journalist, remarked that it seemed they hadn’t “thought this one through all the way.”
London’s ITV News spoke with two British organizations that work with domestic violence survivors. Sandra Horley of the group Refuge said that “it may be dangerous for some women if they take part” in the campaign because it had spread widely and become so well-known.
“Women who mark themselves with a black dot could unintentionally inform their abusive partner that they are trying to reach out and access support,” Horley told ITV News.
Here in the U.S. reactions were mixed. Many shared and applauded the campaign’s mission, but national domestic violence prevention groups urged caution while also recognizing the value the viral campaign brought in spotlighting the issue.
“Campaigns like the Black Dot campaign can help keep domestic violence at the forefront of a national conversation, giving local and national domestic violence organizations the opportunity to educate the public on available resources,” said National Domestic Violence Hotline CEO Katie Ray Jones in an email to Buzzfeed. Jones also cautioned survivors to remember the risks inherent in any attempt to leave an abusive relationship: “It’s important to recognize that the abusive partner may be looking to see if their partner is using the black dot.”
On Wednesday, the Facebook page for Black Dot Campaign had been disabled. However, a Twitter profile was still active on Wednesday. Some of the tweets responded to the criticisms directed toward the campaign.
The Daily Dot tweeted a request for more information to the @blackdotcamp account and will update when a response is received.
Photo via Black Dot Campaign/Facebook