Finding Hope

One of the greatest perks of social media is its ability to be used as a vehicle to share stories. A user actively engaged in the forum has a high chance of learning something that will undoubtedly change her perception on a specific topic. As a man, there were certain things in life that I was aware of, but, having no personal experience, couldn’t fully understand. In order for abstract concepts and happenings to become palatable, I needed something tangible, like a firsthand account of a story I could read from someone who went through it. Sadly, my attitude of “seeing is believing” extended to the issue of domestic violence, until I read the stories of women who had been victims of it.

Perhaps the most harrowing experience I’ve read about took place in my home state of Florida. Marissa Alexander, who was recently released from prison, is a domestic violence survivor. She had been jailed in Florida because she, fearing for her life, fired a gunshot near her abusive husband as a method of self-defense. Marissa was unable to convince the jury of these facts the judge sentenced her to jail with the possibility of a 60 year prison sentence. This is only one story. One that I’ve read about. It’s unnerving to think of how many instances like these that won’t ever make the newspaper.

I don’t think this is an uncommon occurrence, this need to “see for yourself” when it comes to matters that stretch beyond our understanding. Far too often, domestic violence gets painted solely as “victims and abusers,” to the point victims are dehumanized. Social media has taught me that narrative and stories are powerful. One is far more likely to retain information and empathize with a person involved in a story as opposed to relegating instances of domestic violence into charts and graphs.

One of the hallmarks of abuse victims is a feeling of powerlessness. They feel as if there’s nothing they can do or nowhere they can go to stop and get away from the abuse. Being able to share stories that humanize victims makes them “real” to people who otherwise have no idea this happens. The twist, then, is that people witnessing these stories want to help out, but don’t know how. Verizon HopeLine, an initiative from telecommunications provider, Verizon, has found a way.

Verizon Hopeline
Verizon HopeLine is an initiative that has enlisted celebrities like Morris Chestnut, Omarion, Justin Skye, and Terrence J to help victims of domestic violence.

The attention-grabbing PSA was designed to teach viewers about the power of a phone and empower individuals to take action against domestic violence in a very simple way – by visiting any Verizon store and donating a used wireless phone to Verizon’s HopeLine program.

Verizon partnered with the stars of the new PSA to bring broader awareness to this important national issue that affects our communities, friends, and family members and help HopeLine reach its goal of 1 million phone donations by the end of 2015. Each donated phone will help make an impact by connecting survivors of domestic violence to vital resources and fund domestic violence organizations nationwide.

Social media and technology are powerful tools used to build awareness. The genius in the HopeLine initiative is that, as a society so focused on what we carry in our pocket, it is highly likely most people have a spare phone collecting dust somewhere in their living space. There are so many different ways to help abuse victims that, no matter how grand or minute, every gesture helps. Even donating an old phone.

By Garfield Hylton

Garfield Hylton, J.D., is a dark-humored, self-deprecating misanthropist whose only hope of redemption is turning blank Google Word documents into piles of well-executed thoughts. He likes to add the suffix "J.D." on everything he writes because he understands that everything sounds better when coming from a doctor. You can listen to his podcast here: @NWAPcast.