Victims of domestic violence are not just found in cis heterosexual relationships, it is an issue that society needs to address as it is a problem for many people in a variety of queer and straight relationships. Social platform forms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a foundation for victims to share stories and be a part of community that can help them. However, in this paper I discuss the lack of LGTBQ+ experiences found in big online advocacies such as White Ribbon Australia, and how it is difficult for queer people to seek help as they feel as though society disregards that seriousness of their own domestic violence experiences.
White Ribbon Australia was founded in 1991, however, originally the foundation was started due to the mass shooting in Ecole Polytechnique de I’Universite de Montreal. December 6th, 1989 a male student walked into a classroom shooting 14 women and injuring 10 “while shouting anti-feminist slogans” (White Ribbon Australia, 2021). This sparked nationwide advocacy for violence against women and the “forefront of our collective consciousness” (White Ribbon Australia, 2021). Bob Pease, was the reason White Ribbon was bought to Australia in 1992. As a member of the Men Against Sexual Assault (MASA), he was attending several National Organizations in Chicago and came across White Ribbon Campaigns and was inspired to launch it in every state where MASA is active. White Ribbon Australia’s vision is to “be a part of a global social movement working to eliminate gendered violence” (White Ribbon Australia, 2021) This paper discusses the limitations of gender inclusion in the online advocacy White Ribbon Australia, as their primary source of information regards victims that are of gender and sexuality normative, which overall limits the community and variety of individuals that seek help from these online advocacies. Since the beginning of domestic establishment, domestic violence has been an increasing problem in society. However, the increase of advocacy has yet to determine an analytical understanding of domestic violence that society can use to direct our efforts for social change. Critically analyzing the lack of diverse victim experiences in Australian online advocacies such as White Ribbon Australia and normalization of domestic violence within a group of victims such as heterosexual relationships. Centering gender in the research of domestic violence without acknowledging the significant outcomes of other identities and social locations.
For many, social media and online spaces are a form of connection and education, as victims of domestic violence rely on the support of family, friends, authority figures, and communities to protect themselves from violent partners. Even though there are many helpful social media communication platforms such as the White Ribbon Australia Facebook page with 179, 358 followers, or Australian Women Against violence (AWAVA) twitter organization that has 7,244 followers, they often lack the sources to support experiences and stories of other gender identities and rely on the “normative ideas about gender and sexuality” ( Fagan, 2016; Patterson, 2016; Renarde, 2016) As a result this leads to overlooking the severity of violence within the LGTBQ+ relationships, which “abusers’ knowledge of these additional barriers facilitates other kinds of physical and emotional violence that make it more difficult for victims and survivors to become safe (Bornstein et al. 2006) Social media advocacy organizations “are an important source of support for many victims and survivors, but they are also sites where normative discourses of gender and sexuality flourish.” (Shelton, 2017) Organizations such as White Ribbon (1991) that was originally started in 1991 in Canada in response to domestic violence against women and children. The white ribbon symbolizing “the idea of men giving up their arms”, and men’s opposition to violence against women” (White Ribbon Australia, 2021) Their website and social media pages such as Instagram (@whiteribbonaust 21.1 k followers) and their Twitter (@WhiteribbonAust with 22.5K followers) continues to be amazing platforms that reach millions of people worldwide, it continues to highlight gender in their “analyses of sexual and domestic violence without recognizing the important outcomes of other identities and social locations” (Shelton, 2017) The lack of recognition of other victims and survivors that identify differently from heterosexual and cisgender roles, are often foreseen and do not get the same response as those that fit the one social group that social media advocacies portrays domestic violence to be in. “The assumptions advocates make about individuals involved in violent relationships both marginalize victim men and trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming victims and lead to heteronormative advocacy efforts. (Patterson, 2016). Further discussing the community and individuals that these reproduced online advocacy attract, and how they interact with each other. As a political outlook, the Queer community seeks to disclose the normative constraints of gender identity. Further, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that are run by White Ribbon Australia need to “deconstruct existing assumptions and practices among advocates, recognizing places where normative beliefs about gender and sexuality limit the effectiveness of advocacy efforts across difference, and making room for bodies that have been previously marginalized, regulated or erased.” (Shelton, 2017).
Domestic violence is the controlling “pattern of one person trying to dominate or control another person.” (Domestic Violence Organization, 2021) In common forms this is done by abusive ways, physical, sexual or emotional. The abuser is often depicted as a stronger or more dominate being, which falls into a gender construction of a male figure. With this “normative constructions of gender and sexuality affect tactics of abuse such as abusers can exploit normative ideas to reinforce their power and control over their partners” (Allen & Leventhal, 1999) for example males can use the normative of stronger, angry and over powering to exploit a passive and caring women. This can also lead to the lack of information being provided by informative websites and social media platforms, victims could feel a separation or distance from support. Years of continually identifying gender and sexuality into a confine category has “shaped social perceptions of domestic violence and our shared reactions to it.” (Shelton, 2017) consequently society have portrayed women to be the “primary, if not only, victims of domestic violence and men as the primary, if not one, perpetrators of violence.” (Shelton, 2017). For example, on White Ribbons Instagram page they post on average three to two times a week with a total of 872 posts. Within those post, there are only three discussing about the LGTBQ+ community, the rests are quotes, stories and information about women who have experienced domestic violence in a cis relationship.
The research that has been provided by most organizations stem from the focus on the abuse of male power in the context of a heterosexual relationship. Another example is the AWAVA twitter account that has created a platform for different women to connect and commutate their stories to help others, there is a small development in the usage of wording such as “young women and non-binary people” (AWAVA, 2021) the lack of information and support groups for nonbinary, gender nonconforming and transgender victims can be fatal as these victims can often feel alone or not heard. Author of Feminist Advocacy (2013), Andrea J. Nichols discuss the research of “feminist identities, ideologies, and practices as components of organizations that both resist and reproduce various facets of gender” (Nichols. A, 2013) generally highlights a distinct “feminist advocacy in anti- domestic violence organizations” (Nichols. A, 2013) this lead to attitudes that violence within a lesbian relationship with two women can be seen as less serious, because the perpetrator is not a male.
A community for most is a group of people that share characteristics of experiences in common. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter as design to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” (Forbush, 2018) Facebook in particular have private groups for strangers to join and share information with others that might be experiencing the same thing. For many domestic victims Facebook is a place of security and a safe place to get help or help others. This forms the reflection of the affordances online spaces and safe advocacies provide for people in these situations. Many don’t have support groups for people in the LGBTQ+ community, lacking inspiring stories from others that have been through those situations, to support victims to speak up. Even though “perpetrators of violence have developed methods of abuse that enable them to use this sense of community to isolate victims from advocacy resources and services and to increase their influence over the victims’ actions” (Shelton. S, 2017) Even if victims tried to escape and find the support they would struggle to feel included as many online advocacies online and on social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook often choose the narrative of supporting cisgender women and child in heterosexual relationships. So many people stay quiet purely out of fear and not wanting to feel judged and “so many queer victims/ survivors fear that talking about violation “turn people queer”, so many queer victims/survivors fear that talking about violence in the queer community with being used to justify anti- queer beliefs and practices, such as the belief that queer people are mentally ill or need to heal” (Clare, 2015; Lebarbera, 2016) The fear of society using their domestic violence against them for homophobic comments, and the unknowing that if they were to call reinforcements that they aren’t transphobic or homophobic as well, resulting in police being unfair or beating the abuser purely because they are within the LGBTQ+ community, this can be seen within racial cases as well.
Online advocacy pages such as White Ribbon Australia Facebook group, are a very helpful and safe place for many to come to and feel like they have been heard or confirmed. Stating that their mission is to decrease domestic violence within every home. This demonstrates that there is an acknowledgment that domestic violence does affect everyone regardless of their identity. Declarations such as “white ribbon Australia understands the complexities that drive enforced gendered violence” (White Ribbon Australia, 2021) reinforce the support that society does not limit domestic violence to any one group. Statements like this provide light to the issue, an understanding that violence should not be a conversation of gender identity but of willingness to listen to others in need to help and safety. The online space should be a gateway for people to create amazing support groups for everyone, not just one group of people.
In conclusion gender inclusion in online advocacies and social media platforms such as White Ribbon Australia, should be provided as victims that fall into the LGBTQ+ community often feel neglected or overseen because they are suffering in a queer relationship. Society should not be focusing purely on the narrative of cisgender women in a heterosexual relationship as victims, and male figures as abusers instead voicing victims of all identities, gender, and race as domestic violence does not discriminate and anyone can be victims of abuse.
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