Over 4 million women per year in the U.S. are victims of intimate partner violence, and over 38 million women have experienced violence by a partner in their lifetimes. Statistics like these reveal a social epidemic, and several non-profits have risen up to attempt to raise awareness with a digital component, such as the NoMore campaign, which ran a chilling PSA during the 2015 Super Bowl.
But one non-profit is taking a very specific approach toward using social media to combat violence against women. Truth In Reality aims to draw attention to violent depictions and harmful stereotypes of women of color on TV, particularly in reality shows. Each week, Truth In Reality leads Tweet Chats to open up a dialogue about how these depictions of violence contribute to violence against women of color in the real world, and to bring in new advocates to the cause. We spoke with Truth In Reality founder and CEO Sil Lai Abrams about this unique program.
Verizon Wireless News: What is the mission of Truth In Reality?
Sil Lai Abrams: Truth In Reality (TIR) is a non-profit social advocacy organization pioneering a movement to change the imbalanced media depictions of women of color, especially on violent reality television. Through education, research, public awareness campaigns, social media engagement, strategic partnerships and public commentary we aim to change society's acceptance of gender-based violence, and ultimately reduce its incidence in the Black community.
VZW: Can you tell us more about your social media campaign?
Abrams: Specific to digital engagement, I lead weekly #RealityTVCheck Tweet Chats (Mondays from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET). Core issues relating to the mission of TIR serve as the basis for the weekly topics, which are guest co-hosted by a celebrity or well-known influencer. The Tweet Chats encourage ongoing dialogue, which is a critical component of creating sustained behavioral changes. By continuing the conversation on social media on a weekly basis, we are able to increase awareness of gender-based violence among a broader audience.
VZW: Why did you choose to focus on social media?
Abrams: Social media can be an incredibly engaging way of spreading awareness of domestic violence, particularly to share survivors’ stories and statistics, and encourage advocacy. The challenge is to move people outside of the digital world and into real-world action. Social media is a great tool to galvanize people in spurts, and I’d love to see it translate into real-life social action similar to the way the #BlackLivesMatter digital movement has transitioned.
VZW: What are the challenges of using social media in this way?
Abrams: Social media, as a tool, has its drawbacks. Anyone can get online and spout information that may not be accurate and, due to the nature of social media, this information has the potential to be spread exponentially. Additionally, there is always the potential of a survivor speaking up on social media, and facing backlash from her batterer or her community. The personal safety of each user must always come first, before the desire to disseminate information.
Verizon has a long standing commitment to domestic violence prevention and awareness and it has been a main philanthropic focus since 2001 through the HopeLine® from Verizon program.
HopeLine collects no-longer-used wireless phones, batteries, chargers and accessories and turns them into financial support for non-profit domestic violence organizations and initiatives. Verizon also donates wireless phones through HopeLine, complete with service and data, to domestic violence shelters nationwide for use by victims and survivors.