By Jaime Rothbard, Founder of Shehugger
The violence didn’t last long. I was a 19-year-old college sophomore and managed to escape the physical abuse after only four months, even though it felt like a lifetime. Still, that window into a world of terror was enough to skew the path my life would take. While the bruises healed quickly on the outside, inside they sank deep and stayed. But I’m glad they did, because they forged an enduring connection to others who suffer abuse at the hands of someone they love and who claims to love them.
As I went on to study domestic violence and listened to the lived experiences of so many survivors, a blueprint emerged. Domestic violence can’t be understood by looking at a single episode. Instead, we need to put those episodes inside the context of our culture.
Domestic violence is insidious. We hear so many stories, yet there is so little recognition and even less compassion. To discover that one in four women globally experiences violent abuse by a partner—and the numbers appear to be increasing— is enough to keep my internal bruises feeling tender.
Far too many of us bear these wounds. What do we collectively do with this information, these experiences, and these internal bruises? I’ve worked a lot of different angles over 15 years trying to expose and heal the wounds that domestic violence leaves on our society. As it has been said, we cannot solve our greatest problems with the same mindset that created them. We need more ways to talk about this pain, and more than anything, we need ways to transform it.
Addressing the cultural roots of violence has to be done without condemnation, without adding more violence and in a way that offers an opportunity to heal. I created Shehugger to be a wearable piece of advocacy that could do these things. It challenges the cavalier use of violent language through the shirt many still call a “wifebeater.”
Creating Shehugger is as much about offering a hug as a gesture of compassion to survivors as it is about giving our culture the opportunity to self-reflect.
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In solidarity with the Society for Women’s Health Research’s “Beyond the Bruises” campaign, I’ll be wearing my Shehugger. I hope I can spread some awareness, and maybe even make someone smile.
The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR ®) is a national non-profit based in Washington D.C. that is widely recognized as the thought-leader in promoting research on biological differences in disease and is dedicated to transforming women’s health through science, advocacy, and education.