Women’s Aid criticises domestic violence campaign

Organisation says plan to bring the Black Dot project to Ireland could be ‘dangerous’

A mural against violence toward women, in Ankara, Turkey. File photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

A mural against violence toward women, in Ankara, Turkey. File photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images


Women’s Aid has voiced concerns over a Dublin-based modelling agency’s plan to bring the controversial Black Dot campaign to Ireland.

The campaign, which encourages women who are the victims of domestic violence to mark their hands with a black dot, could lead to “very dangerous situations”, Women’s Aid said.

The Black Dot campaign first came to prominence in the UK and the US two years ago. Women suffering domestic abuse were encouraged to paint a black dot on their hands as a sign they were in need of help.

However, the campaign came in for strong criticism, as leading domestic violence charities said they believed it might be dangerous for some women to take part in it.

In 2015, the Black Dot campaign in England had its main social media page closed following claims it could do “more harm than good”.

The Size Gorgeous Management modelling agency plans to launch in Dublin on Sunday a “black-dot awareness campaign” to highlight domestic violence.

Women’s Aid, which provides domestic violence support services across Ireland, say they are “concerned that [the campaign] could put those affected at further risk”.

A spokeswoman told The Irish Times: “Domestic violence is a very serious issue that affects one in five women in Ireland and women’s safety must be to the fore of any public awareness initiative.

“We are surprised that the Black Dot campaign is being taken up here, given the valid criticisms of it when it started in the UK and US in 2015.

“These led to the campaign dissipating very quickly. While we don’t doubt the good intentions behind the idea, Women’s Aid, the leading domestic violence support service in Ireland, is concerned that it could put those affected at further risk.

“Encouraging people experiencing domestic violence to visibly mark themselves in this way could, unwittingly, lead to very dangerous situations. It could signal to the abuser that the person wants to leave and is asking for help.

“Domestic violence is motivated by power and control and if abusers feel that being threatened, they can escalate the abuse.”

Positive response

However, Size Gorgeous Management is hoping for a positive response to its initiative, which will be launched with a photo-shoot on Sunday morning at famous Dublin locations.

“We are the first body in Ireland to launch the #sgmblackdotcampaign here in Ireland. We will launch on the streets of Dublin and in and around popular locations to highlight that the black dot on the palm of a hand is a silent cry for help against domestic violence for both men and women,” organiser Sharon McCarthy told The Irish Times.

“One of the models that we work with has been the victim of domestic violence and we are doing this for her. We all know somebody that has been a victim in the past and domestic abuse is not uncommon in the modelling world.

“Sometimes partners become jealous of the attention that models can get, and this is when the abuse can start. The black dot enables victims who cannot ask for help verbally to reach out to persons who recognise this and hopefully help in some way.

“We believe the black dot idea is a legitimate method of seeking aid and by raising awareness to it will help the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence,” added Ms McCarthy.

Ms McCarthy said that Irish businesswoman Norah Casey’s recent interview on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, in which she shared her story of domestic abuse, also played a role in the agency’s decision to launch this campaign.

“Norah Casey’s interview on The Late Late Show was very powerful and impacted a lot of men and women watching the show at home. We hope our awareness campaign will have the same effect,” said Ms McCarthy.

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, Women’s Aid can be reached in confidence on 1800-341900.