Army Community Service
Domestic violence is an issue than many people find difficult to address and that is often times kept silent.
To promote awareness and to allow the uncomfortable feelings to surface, Family Advocacy planned a secret social experiment: The Black Eye Campaign. With the assistance of nine individuals from all walks of life, we were able to give voice to the epidemic that haunts many male and female victims.
Makeup was used to give the appearance of black eyes and bruises on arms, necks and hands, depicting the physical aspect of domestic violence. Our volunteers went about their day to create reactions from those who work with them or who saw them during the day.
The purpose of the experiment was to see how many people would inquire about the bruises and if any would be able to recommend any of the available resources for victims of abuse. It also allowed for the volunteers to experience the journey a victim walks for one day. The volunteers were requested to record their thoughts, feelings, and experiences and when approached to give a “Thanks for asking” information card that explained the campaign, statistics, and where to go for help. Those near the victims were asked to record their reactions as well, and what was recorded was astonishing.
Here are the heartfelt words from our volunteers
“Today was the first day in my life where I felt shamed from beginning to end. Most people I came across today refused to acknowledge the hurt that was smeared across my face. I was marked with a black eye and bruises on my arms that shouted ‘Avoidance’ rather than what I thought would shout ‘help and guidance’. There were some people who were filled with rage and ready to help but many others took the cold shoulder approach because it was ‘easier’. I am thankful for those who were there that day to help me feel normal again. I hope to be someone that helps bring the ‘normal’ back into victims’ lives and that others will do the same,” Demi Lager.
“When I saw Demi, I felt sad with not knowing what happened to her. I got angry thinking that it could have been her significant other. And since this campaign, I am more motivated to provide help even if it is a person I don’t know,” Julio Telles, Recreation Assistant.
“Once she looked up at me and I saw her face, I blurted out what happened, are you ok? I was so perplexed that she had gotten hurt somehow. For a moment, my mind and heart were at odds because of the thoughts that she was truly hurt. Only until she handed me the response card, I was relieved to know that my intern, former student and now friend was ok. Once I read the card I thought I could only imagine how someone who really is being abused like this could feel. It was rough realization that most people don’t even think about when they aren’t being subjected to it. My mind was clearly opened and it made aware of the serious concerns of abuse,” Dawn Armstrong, Fitness Program Specialist.
“I don’t like attention drawn to myself and I found that uncomfortable. I found it difficult to lie. I guess if a person was afraid or loved their abuser they would have to lie to protect them and themselves. I didn’t like victim-hood. I didn’t want people to think I had let myself be abused. I felt ashamed, which is completely irrational. I found that women were more likely to say something to me about my injuries. I recall nine individuals speaking to me about it, and of those, seven were women. In fairness to the men, I do work with more women than men and some of the men I work with were TDY during this exercise. I was truly touched when someone took the time to ask about my injuries. More people said something than I thought. There is definitely awareness of the domestic violence problem in our community,” Lowell J. Aeschliman.
“I went into this social project thinking it’d be funny to trick people into thinking I had a black eye, assuming everyone would know by the end of the day it was fake. However, when the end of the day came my perspective had changed. I felt a relationship towards what real victims must feel; to them this is their reality. I felt self-conscious throughout the day, wondering and wanting people to ask so I could assure them it wasn’t real. I questioned if that’s how a real victim of domestic violence must feel, TRAPPED, yearning for someone to ask them what was wrong but not being able to bring it up themselves. It was mentally draining worrying about what people thought when what they saw was so horrible they couldn’t look at you straight in the face after one glance. From now on I won’t be afraid to ask if everything is ok. This project was a great learning experience!” Tess Archer
“It really angered me and I was very close to asking Tess whom did that to her, because I wanted to go bruise the person that had done that to her. I really felt bad for her and wanted to ask her what had happened, but I didn’t because unfortunately I don’t know her that well. If I had known her well, I definitely would have asked her what had happened,” Cedric Baca
Chief, Ground Combat Branch ARL-SLAD.
“As a ‘victim’ especially of the opposite sex, I had the full realization that domestic violence is a disease that calls for a holistic approach to its eradication. And the action must be taken now,” Sgt. Isaac Ofori.
Domestic Violence is very real, and is alive in our community! It does not matter if you know the person or not, it’s everyone’s business to stop domestic violence. Whether you are a male or female, no instance of domestic violence is justified. If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence—Take A Stand and call your local Family Advocacy Program at (575) 678-2306, the local WSMR 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline Number (575) 993-7413 or the National Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).
Thank you to those who provided feedback when faced with the widespread public health concern we know to be domestic violence: Dawn Armstrong, Cedric Baca, Chief, Martin Kufus, Julio Telles, and Yvonne Mann.
A special thank you to the courageous volunteer victims that helped shed light onto the prevalent hurt that troubles an entire community. Lt. Col. Brian Weisgram, Commander McAfee Health Clinic; Sgt. Isaac Ofori, NCOIC, Occupational Health/Industrial Hygiene; Private 1st Class Justice, Medical Logistician; Demi Lager, Bell Gym; Tess Archer, Bell Gym; Linda Henry, Transportation Specialist; Lowell J. Aeschliman, IT Specialist; Anna Maria Vestal, Army Community Service, and Carl Krause.