(NOTE: I speak from the female perspective, because that’s who I am,
but these things apply across genders, cultures and ages!)
Very often when a victim finally speaks up about the abuse, people are surprised. For so long, she has hidden or even lied about the state of her relationship. On Facebook she’ll post memes and statuses sharing how wonderful her partner is, how much she appreciates him, how loved he makes her feel. She doesn’t share the abuse, how much she doubts herself, she hides her fears that she has done something causing him to hurt her, her pain, her fear that something is wrong with her, or the moments he makes her feel as if he hates her. It’s too shameful to share those things. If he is physically abusing her, she hides the bruises but shares the gifts that inevitably come afterwards.
In addition, if they don’t share a Facebook page, he certainly has access to see what she is posting. If she shares anything less than favorable about him, she will suffer from repercussions. If she is planning to exit the relationship, it is not safe to even hint at it on social media. She has to protect herself and sometimes the best way to do that is to lie about the abuse, to falsely represent the relationship.
What you see on social media is a public persona of a relationship. It is rare for anyone to expose all to the world wide web, but it is dangerous for an abuse victim to do so. None of us are often brave enough to be completely vulnerable to the entire world.
I have come to the point where I begin to question a relationship that is presented as all positive and wonderful on social media. I acknowledge that it is unlikely to always be so, and sometimes it is a case of “methinks you protest too much”. Everyone faces challenges, disagreements and struggles in a relationship. A good relationship learns to work through those moments. There is no perfect relationship.
Just before I ended my marriage, my Facebook page was full of how wonderful my ex was. I shared memes of how grateful I was for him, I expressed my love for him and thanks for the positive things he did. After I left, a friend commented on how my Facebook page had not given any hints to the state of my unhappiness and pending end of my marriage. I wasn’t purposefully trying to be deceptive, I was trying one last time to see if I could do something to save my marriage, I was protecting myself from my abuser, and I was protecting my abuser from negative social pressure.
Too often we hear the advice “Never speak badly about your partner”. We need to learn to speak honestly about our relationships, to have someone we trust and with whom we can share the good and bad about our life. One way to protect ourselves from abuse is to surround ourselves with intimate friends, friends who can hold help us hold ourselves accountable, friends who will help hold accountable. We must have relationships with honest, safe communication.
We have to stop protecting abusers. A victim may need to falsely represent the relationship to protect themselves, but once free, we have to speak up. If you suspect abuse is happening, you need to speak up. Silence breeds violence.