Viral hashtag gives a voice to victims of non- violent abuse

The hashtag #Maybehedoesnthityou went viral on Twitter this week as women offered up the many ways in which relationships can be abusive without physical violence.

This comes just a week after #RapedatMorehouse began trending locally led by a series of tweets in which a user recounted an alleged sexual assault at Spelman College by four Morehouse students.

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The #Maybehedoesnthityou hashtag started with this tweet from writer/artist Zahira Kelley:

Next thing you know, women nationwide began tweeting the various ways in which abuse can be non-violent:

While it may seem an odd to discuss something so intimate in a public forum, this isn’t the first time abuse and sexual violence have taken the spotlight on social media.

Earlier this year, an activist doing humanitarian work in South Africa live blogged her rape  — which was subsequently banned from, then reinstated on social media.

In 2014, writer Beverly Golden created the Twitter hashtag #whyIstayed after video footage of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice and his then fiancée now wife, Janay Rice surfaced.

Ray appeared to punch Janay, knocking her unconscious before dragging her from the elevator. Rice was suspended but is now a free agent and the couple is expecting their second child.

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Amy Drummond of Marietta bows in prayer for victims of child sexual abuse. Drummond, who was sexually abused, was among those who turned out for the fifth annual prayer vigil hosted by Voice Today, a non-profit that works to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. Gracie Bonds Staples/gstaples@ajc.com

Golden had been in an abusive relationship herself and getting out was a process, she said. The hashtag she created allowed women to talk about their reasons for staying in abusive situations. Golden said she wanted to offer those women on Twitter a place to “find a voice, find love, find compassion, and find hope.”

According to Dr. Karen McDonald, founder and president of Rachael’s Rest — a non-profit that helps women and children who have experienced sexual violence or abuse rebalance their lives — that may be just the thing that women tweeting to these various hashtags are seeking.

“If you tell five people [about sexual violence or abuse] you may get five negative reactions from people who don’t understand or haven’t been there. When you put it out on social media — at least 25 percent are going to know what you are talking about and are going to validate you. You may not get that reaction that you need from someone you know,” McDonald said.

But while it social media may offer another avenue for women to express themselves about these issues and is a great way to continue building awareness of sexual violence and abuse, McDonald is quick to add that it should never be a substitute for psychological counseling.

“[Social media] is an avenue for validation, but you are also going to get bad advice,” she said. “You are not going to get the tools to work through it and to build a better future for your life through social media.”

Victims who can’t or won’t consider counseling may post to Twitter as a satisfying outlet, but real change, McDonald said, requires harder work.

“People want sympathy and want the pain to stop, but they may not be willing to do what it will take to stop it,” she said. “Sometimes it means giving up everything to make that change.”

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