If you spent time on Twitter or Instagram the past few weeks, you might have caught the #FreeMelania jokes swirling around on social media, which suggest that Melania Trump was so miserable at the inauguration, and possibly in her marriage, that we need to save her from the clutches of her husband.
Of course, photos of public figures, particularly those involved in politics, are free for interpretation. But insinuating that someone is in an abusive relationship based on how they appear (or how often they speak), and then mocking them, shows how poorly Americans understand the gravity of domestic abuse and violence. An average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute in the United States, which adds up to more than 10 million abuse victims and survivors annually, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Whether it’s Melania or someone else, when we make domestic abuse a laughing matter or minimize what someone might be going through, it doesn’t help victims and survivors, it makes them marginalized,”
This is not to say that you should remain silent if you truly think someone you know is being abused. But there are right and wrong ways to handle that kind of situation, and assuming that it’s easy for someone to leave an abusive partner if they aren’t physically held captive (like many #FreeMelania posters seem to be assuming) is often the first thing people get wrong.
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What if someone who sees your “hilarious LOL!” post is actually in an abusive relationship and is trying to get out? She will see that you find her pain funny. She will read that you implicitly believe that women in certain kinds of marriages deserve what they get. She will remember. The meme that you posted as a throwaway joke will stick with her—she will remember that her pain, to you, is nothing more than a fleeting punchline.
Someone you know right now is in an abusive relationship. Abuse affects women from all educational backgrounds, from all economic groups. Someone who you know right now, who puts on a smile in the carpool line and who posts pictures of her kids on vacation? That person is struggling and pretending and dying inside with every day, and is fighting as hard as she can not to show her terror and misery. That person needs to know that you don’t find her pain funny—that instead, you truly care and you want to help.
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When we can see the humanity behind the people who these jokes target, and when we understand the implications of the privileged laughing at the marginalized, we lose our ability to laugh at their expense. The jokes just aren’t as funny anymore.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.
Free Yourself Global
At Transcendent Media Capital we are committed to raising awareness of domestic violence against both men, women and children worldwide with the aim of ending this pervasive issue. Our campaign Free Yourself Global explores the enculturation of violence through families over generations, and how does one, whether the abuser or the abused, interrupt the pattern of violence?
Learn more about our project at FreeYourselfGlobal.com and share your story with us today anonymously through our website or using the hashtag #FreeYourselfGlobal. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the handle @FreeYourselfGlobal.