It takes courage to stand up to the world and expose your scars and wounds for everyone to see. Actor Evan Rachel Wood not only did that, by talking about her own abusive relationship, she also started #IAmNotOk. An online movement which many women are now using to reveal their wounds, both psychological and physical, that domestic abuse has left them with. The most heart-breaking thing about this hashtag though, is that it tells us stories of suffering and pain. Where women chose to stay in toxic relationships, because that was their safest option, or so they thought.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Actor Evan Rachel Wood shared her story of domestic abuse using #IAmNotOk.
  • The hashtag is now trending on Twitter as numerous women are using it to share their survival stories.
  • The rawness and vulnerability, which these tweets leave you with is daunting.
  • For many women, surviving domestic abuse is all about making it alive to the next day. Rather than taking big risks which could cost them their lives.

The most heart-breaking thing about this hashtag is that it tells us stories of suffering and pain.

Woods shared a photograph of herself, in which we can clearly see the scars on her wrists and wrote, “two years into my abusive relationship, I resorted to self harm. When my abuser would threaten or attack me, I cut my wrist as a way to disarm him. It only made the abuse stop temporarily. At that point, I was desperate to stop the abuse and I was too terrified to leave.” Wood’s protection from her abuser came at the cost of self harm, and that shows the extent to which women have to go to protect themselves.

Fear works in strange ways. It renders you catatonic and often you end aiming to merely survive a threat, then taking a big risk to defeat it. That choice is something millions of domestic abuse victims have to make every single day. Endure and survive one day at a time or take a big risk which may end up incurring a cost much worse than losing your life. Who is to say what choice is the best? Who is the best judge of what is an ideal course of action, when you find yourself facing physical or psychological abuse at the hands of the person you love? Only the person who is stuck in that situation, I think. Those who sit on the sidelines and question women why they didn’t walk away sooner, will never know what they have been through.

Fear works in strange ways. It renders you catatonic and often you end aiming to merely survive a threat, then taking a big risk to defeat it.

After Wood shared her story, many women used #IAmNotOk to tell their own stories of abuse and survival, and guess what was common? The rawness each and every tweet leaves you with. These women have been through hell and more and they still feel they are not okay. Sometimes the cost of standing up or ending an abusive relationship comes in the form of one’s life. The UN Global study on homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls 2018, which was released last year, says the home is the most likely place for a woman to be killed. But even when you manage to walk out of it alive, the bruises you carry aren’t just physical. Survivors of abuse end up struggling with mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, self-harm tendencies, etc.

The abuse ends, but its wounds prevail for a lifetime.

These women are right in saying #IAmNotOk, but it isn’t just women, it’s us, the society which is not okay. Every woman who feels afraid, pressured or goaded into staying in an abusive relationship is a sign of our collective failure. What are we doing to help these women walk out on toxic partners? Take our own country, where so many married women have to endure domestic violence day in day out, because the alternative is either death or social ostracization. In our bid to shield male privileges and our patriarchal ways of life, we put women in harm’s way. How many of us choose to intervene when they hear their friend, relative or an acquaintance is facing domestic abuse? And how many of us turn a blind eye to it, claiming it is between the couple and none of our business?

Without emotional, financial and legal backing, standing up against violence is a daring choice to make. So the next time you feel like telling a woman enduring domestic abuse, why she hasn’t walked away from her partner yet, ask yourselves, what have you done to enable her to take that step?

Feature Image: Evan Rachel/Twitter

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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