In recent weeks, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) received media attention for the criticism that the #MeToo movement leaves out the experiences of victims of domestic violence. Though there are often distinctions between survivors’ experiences of domestic and sexual violence (and even more distinctions among individuals’ experiences of violence and harassment based on their circumstances and identities), overwhelmingly, we see common cause with the #MeToo movement.
At ICADV, we stand with the #MeToo movement because:
- We honor the space, attention, and respect that have allowed survivors of sexual violence to tell their stories.
- We know that the sexual violence prevention and response movement has traditionally worked in a context characterized by greater social stigma and with less financial support than other forms of violence, including domestic violence.
- We see the common roots of sexism that support the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence and also that the common cultural response of disbelief and judgement to these forms of violence reinforces the stigma and shame that often silences survivors.
- We know – both from national data and our experiences as practitioners – that forms of violence, frequently co-occur where survivors report multiple lifetime experiences of sexual violence and domestic violence.
The NCADV’s critique is centered in the idea that #MeToo has created an environment where disclosure from survivors of sexual violence is met with belief and support, but where survivors of domestic violence remain silenced by stigma – where experiences are minimized, and where the behavior of victims is subject to scrutiny and blame. Unfortunately, we know that the first premise isn’t true. Though #MeToo has catalyzed a cultural conversation that has allowed many survivors of sexual violence and harassment to share their stories, we know that they still do so at risk of disbelief and judgement. Moreover, as we have observed in various media, survivors with more marginalized identities – particularly women working in low wage positions – have been less acknowledged and supported.
We see common roots in the experiences of stigma shared by survivors of multiple forms of violence. The common cultural narrative of bootstraps individualism tells all of us that we have the ability, therefore the responsibility, to keep ourselves safe in our relationships. With that expectation, those who experience harm generally have to start by defending (even to themselves) how they weren’t to blame for their victimization. For survivors of domestic and sexual violence, the silencing effect of stigma and shame is further amplified by the cultural norm of privacy around what goes on in our personal relationships.
Though we understand the organizational impulse to strongly advocate within the silo of our social problem, we believe that in order to be effective, we must understand the broader social context and conditions in which sexual and domestic violence are happening. This points us towards areas of shared understanding about the nature of these forms of violence, and also strategies for eliminating them. When we seek to carve out our social problem’s individual space, we whittle our collective ability to name and address the cultural conditions that enable multiple forms of violence. As we work to address the sources of cultural motivation and permission for domestic violence, we know that #MeToo hasn’t solved the problem, but we believe that it is a really good step, for all of us.
For the past year and a half, ICADV has been utilizing a collect impact framework to bring stakeholders who work on multiple forms of violence together to build a common agenda, work towards emerging solutions, and build a collective message around violence prevention. This work is supported by the Rape Prevention and Education grant from the Indiana State Department of Health, as well as key partners who have dedicated time and energy to the process. If you are interested in learning more about collective impact or the steering committee that meets monthly, please contact Kate Gasiorowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.