They’re not testing out their eyeliners, and they’re not trying to get their pens to work. It's far more serious than that.
Women across the world are using a black dot symbol as a means of communicating the fact they’ve experienced domestic abuse.
The logic is simple. If you’re going through abuse, and struggling to ask for help, draw a dot on your hand. It can be a big dot, or a small dot. And then, when you’re in a position of some safety, with a person that you trust, you open your palm.
The campaign was started on Facebook – and although the page has been temporarily shut down, by last week it had accumulated 40,000 likes, and now fanpages are already being set up in its memory. But along with widespread international support, there’s been a lot of criticism too. Many people believe it could be used by perpetrators of domestic violence as a means of further abusing their partners – making victims even more vulnerable along the way.
‘I was basing it on my experiences and I was thinking, how could I prompt people to talk about domestic violence,’ explains the woman behind the campaign. ‘A black dot is easy to make, and easy to erase. As a female, you could go to the toilet, draw one on with mascara, and then later wipe it out. Being in the centre of your palm, you could close your palm and hide it from view… it’s not going to be a solution for everybody. As a victim, you know what triggers your abuser. So if it’s not safe to draw a black dot, don’t do it. Just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re stupid – you know yourself what is safe and what is not.’
‘Human nature means that in a lot of situations, we don’t intervene,’ she added. ‘We’re polite, and a lot of victims are in a very lonely and scary place. It makes it very difficult to reach out and talk to people. The point of this campaign is to overcome those barriers.’
And for many women, it seems to be working. ‘I had to have an examination so the consultant asked me to lie on the bed and drew the curtain,’ wrote one woman on the original Facebook page. ‘I leant over and took the pen out of his pocket, pulled his hand over to me and wrote HELP ME. I didn’t have to say a word. This campaign gave me the strength and the idea how to ask for help. I am now safe somewhere else thanks to that consultant and the black dot campaign.’