Domestic violence is an epidemic in this country and around the world. In fact, domestic violence often leads to the death of the focus of the violence. Sometimes, it is difficult for victims to get their stories heard. They are afraid of the backlash that may come from their abusers, and it could put their lives in danger. One campaign, started on Facebook, attempted to give victims a way to secretly reach out to those who could help them. It is called the Black Dot Campaign, and although it seems like a good idea, the movement has many flaws that the founders didn’t consider.
What is the Black Dot Campaign?
The Black Dot Campaign quickly became an internet sensation once it was introduced. It involved the victim drawing a small black dot on their hand to alert healthcare workers of the presence of abuse. By using this silent symbol, the abuser would not know that the victim was asking for help, and they could then get the support they needed to get away from the abuser.
This campaign outlined a safe and effective way for abused spouses or significant others to escape their tormentors. Many believe that an abused victim just can’t find a safe place to air their concerns over the abuse. The Black Dot Campaign represented a passive and secretive way to inform helping professions that abuse definitely is present and the victim needs help. Unfortunately, many problems have cropped up over this movement.
Black Dot Controversy
This campaign sounds like a good idea on the surface, but it has some serious problems that the founders didn’t consider. First, no one knows what it means. For instance, if a victim comes into the emergency room with a black dot on his or her palm, doctors, nurses, and social workers aren’t trained to know what it means. They don’t know to look for the dot, and they aren’t aware of the significance of it. The only way to ensure the dot is effective is to make it a standard assessment performed by healthcare workers.
The second problem revolves around the symbol becoming too popular. It doesn’t take very long for an abuser to discover what the black dot means. If they were to see it, they would know the victim is asking for help. This could result in a further beating and would essentially lead to more pain from the abuser. Unfortunately, the more people who know about the Black Dot Campaign, the more dangerous it is for the victim. Abusers will know, and it can lead to serious, often dangerous consequences.
Stopping Domestic Violence
Fighting domestic violence is not an easy task. In many cases, the victim may put their lives on the line to get the help they need. Many abused persons are against the Black Dot campaign, not only for the reasons above, but because anyone could help them. If they were asked about their abuse or if they needed help, they would immediately take it. Unfortunately, not many people recognize the signs of abuse or want to get involved in a situation that is “none of their business.”
The problem with domestic violence is a culture of silence, secrecy, and failure to act. Even helping professionals can fail to notice the symptoms of abuse. It isn’t as obvious as it is on television. Many professionals feel unsure at what they are seeing, and rather than accuse someone of a crime, they don’t do anything at all. Similarly, when a victim is abused in public and witnessed by others, they don’t act to stop the violence or call the police because the bystander doesn’t want to get involved. This leads to a cycle of even more abuse and possibly death. Most victims wait in hope that someone will ask, that someone will decide to help, and no internet campaign is needed for that. They just need someone to offer them a way out, and they will take it willingly.
Protective order laws differ from state to state. The Code of Maryland Family Law section handles protective orders in the state of Maryland. In Maryland, there are three types of protective orders:
Interim Protective Orders
Temporary Protective Orders
Final Protective Orders
Interim protective orders can be filed by the nearest district court commissioner and last a few days until a judge holds a temporary hearing. They are used when a court clerk’s office is closed in both the circuit and district courts.
A temporary protective order can be issued with or without the abuser present (also known as “ex parte”). The abuser will be served immediately following the hearing and the order will be in effect for 7 days while a full court hearing is scheduled. Temporary orders can be extended, but for no more than 6 months.
Final protective orders require a more extensive process where both sides are given the opportunity to present evidence at a full court hearing. If the abuser agrees to the protective order or if a judge believes abuse has occurred, then the judge will grant a final protective order. This order usually lasts up to one year, but it can last for up to two if there was a previous final protective order on the same abuser.
Are you someone who needs help? We have done pro-bono cases for the House of Ruth of Maryland and believe in helping the victims of domestic violence. Please contact us today if we can help you.