Can This Hashtag Help Stop Domestic Violence?

by Alanna Greco

In the UK, one in four women are subjected to domestic violence, and two women die a week because of it. In order to combat these depressing statistics, Glamour UK teamed up with beauty company Avon to create the #WallOfSilence hashtag, the latest social media selfie campaign due to go viral,

Glamour UK is asking that participants submit a selfie with a finger on their lips, making a “shh” gesture, to represent the silence that surrounds intimate violence. If the photo is hashtagged #WallOfSilence and uploaded to Instagram or Twitter, Avon will then donate £1 (or $1.58) to Refuge and Women’s Aid, both charities dedicated to aiding victims of domestic violence. Avon will then take each photo and use it as a “brick” that makes up their virtual wall of silence that surrounds domestic abuse. Last September, Glamour UK challenged their readers to come up with an online campaign idea for Avon’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence. Glamour reader Charli Bailey came up with this winning idea, hoping that “anyone who posts a picture will be saying that we all need to talk about it to break the taboo and empower victims to get help.”

So far, the campaign seems to be off to a good start, with a large “wall” of photos already posted on Avon’s site, and the support of British celebrities such as Sarah-Jane Crawford, Susan Boyle and Amanda Abbington.

While the campaign certainly has only the best intention, it’s worth taking a moment to think about how selfies and hashtags play into charity work. Other serious issues have turned to social media for support and awareness, such as the #nomakeupselfie for breast cancer and the #icebucket challenge for ASL. But does this kind of campaigning reduce these issues to a hashtag? And while breast cancer and ALS are surely solemn conditions, there seems to be a major disconnect between hashtagging and the serious and tragic issue of domestic violence. Is something as lighthearted as a “shh selfie” an appropriate way to discuss and fight domestic violence? While seflie and hastag campaigns are a great way to raise awareness about an issue and get the public involved, we might need to consider what kind of involvement is really taking place. Individuals might chose to participate in these types of contests because they want to feel good about themselves and be recognized for their participation more than they actually care about the cause. After all, can a selfie really be charitable support?

Glamour UK editor Jo Elvin certainly thinks so. She told the Telegraph, “I think it’s just a really natural way to get personal engagement for people. What I like about it being a selfie campaign is that when you see a recognisable face hopefully it will encourage other people to do that.” Elvin hopes that the campaign will spark conversation amongst her readers, and help encourage British society to treat domestic violence like a serious crime. And unlike the ASL challenge, which may people participated in without giving money, each #WallOfSilence hashtag is guaranteed a donation. This means that even if someone uploads a seflie simply because they want to make a cute duckface, money will be donated the cause will be supported.

Now that is seems as though social media-based charity campaigns won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, we should take a very critical eye to how these campaigns play out. Will the ice bucket challenge be remembered as a fad, or as the way that ASL gained support and understanding? It did help raise over $100 million, after all. And what kind of effects do social media campaigns have on participants? Because involvement takes less than two minutes, can we really call each poster involved, or would charities be better off with fewer participants who volunteer more of their time and money to cause? Only time will tell. For now, if you want to make sure that Avon reaches their donation maximum of £20,000, remember to upload a selfie with the hashtag #WallofSilence. Who knows, this campaign might help break down a part of that wall.

Images: Refuge ,Abi Stewart ,Maria Sharapova, Charlie Webster ,DCPae /Twitter