The power of a single, anonymous note

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This piece was submitted by a reader. I will keep her name anonymous.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 35px; color: #8cc7d0;”] I [/dropcap]t was with a heavy heart that I read the angry backlash to a Facebook post by Bluestone Magazine* on topless dancers performing in Warrnambool during what was also 16 days of activism against gender violence.

Reading the stream of comments, it became very clear to me that we have such a long way to go in educating people about the link between the objectification of women, gender inequality, and domestic violence.

Increasingly, I have felt a deep sense of powerlessness about the social and political issues currently plaguing our world. While there seems to be collective outrage on social media, there also seems to be a corresponding amount of despair.


With the far right increasingly gaining momentum and power, and with basic human rights being used as a political pawn, I often feel the problems are just too enormous and insurmountable for any individual to effect any positive change. Perhaps we also feel this way about domestic violence: what can we do, as an individual, to make a difference?

When I reflect on what was personally a game changer for me in domestic violence, it was actually a small and individual act of kindness and bravery from a stranger. 

In my early 20s I was at a pub with my new boyfriend. He was drunk, abusive and out of control, flinging insults at anyone who crossed his path and throwing himself around like a human grenade.

Although the relationship was only new, a series of abusive relationships beforehand had me feel responsible for his behaviour. During the night, however, a woman came up to, looked me in the eye and asked, kindly but firmly, “what are you doing with him? He is a dickhead and you are beautiful.” I laughed in her face and turned away, but those words were like a tiny seed planted in my heart.

The night ended with me climbing through a laundry window to escape my wonderful new boyfriend. Earlier in the night, backing up to me in the street, he had tried to piggyback me, but instead I was thrown straight over his head and face planted the concrete.

In terror, I had made a run for it, with him trailing behind shouting my name. I remember frantically banging on the locked front door of a house party I had left, trying to get someone to hear me over the loud music.

Over the coming months something changed in me.

I slowly came to believe the stranger’s words. I was beautiful, and although I still wasn’t sure I deserved better, I was also resolved not to put up with any more crap. The decision was finally in my own hands, not in the hands of an abusive partner. Quite rapidly my life choices began to change. While it felt awkward and unfamiliar, I eventually let myself fall in love with a man who treated me with kindness, respect and adoration. We are still together to this day.

Recently I tried to plant a similar seed in another young woman’s heart.

I had just witnessed a raging fight between her and her partner in a caravan park. He had taken her mobile phone and refused to give it back. She had eventually barricaded herself in the camp kitchen when his anger reached a terrifying peak. After the police attended, a fragile silence enveloped the campground, but I knew this was far from the end of it for her.

Too scared to intervene, I left a note for her under the passenger side door handle of their car. I told her that she was young and beautiful and that her partner was abusive. I told her that I struggled to leave a similar relationship, but did not regret it for one second. I told her that she may think she can be the one to change him, but that he will never change enough for her to live a happy and healthy life. I told her to get out while she could and not look back.

I often wonder what happened to that young woman. Where was she now? Was she able to escape the toxic cycle of abusive relationships and diminishing self-esteem?

A common strategy in psychology when someone is feeling overwhelmed with an issue is to break it up into smaller, more achievable goals.  Indeed, the lesson I learnt from my kind and brave stranger is that seemingly small acts can have a huge impact.

While we have a long way to go in ending domestic violence, we all have the power to make a difference.

Tell the females in your life that they are beautiful, strong and worth it. Not just young girls, but women of all ages: we all need to hear it.

Plant the seed of hope in someone who needs to hear it. Do small things and do them often. Because you just never know when your ‘small’ may be someone else’s ‘big’.

[box]*The Facebook post was in November last year when, on the same day as the 2016 White Ribbon campaign launch, a local bar hosted a fundraiser around topless women, lap dancing and private dances. The response to the post was vitriolic, with accusations of women shaming, demeaning professional dancers and undermining an attempt to raise funds for a good cause. As it happens, the manager of the bar and I had a correspondence and agreed that the timing was poor, even if we had differing views on the event itself. That is open to a much bigger discussion. – Carol[/box]

Follow up piece: How we get from topless bars to abuse


10 thoughts on “The power of a single, anonymous note”

  1. Quite often it is women who denigrate other women. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s a need to feel superior, or an underlying sense of worthlessness in their own lives. I agree we must build up our girls self esteem as much as we can, without it backfiring and making them feel entitled. But we must also educate our boys right from the nursery, that girls are to be valued as equals. Ideally, we must teach all our children to be kind and thoughtful human beings.

  2. Well done to the brave anonymous writer and also to Carol. Keep up the good work. I think alcohol and drugs seem to be a big problem and need to be addressed.

  3. I agree with Lynn. Education and home understanding about equality,respect and personal individual differences must be provided to all young people.Ideally,no-one should feel entitled. And of course men have been entitled for a very long time,and they have also carried responsibility along with that.
    Women have found a new voice and a whole new perspective on their own lives and life itself.
    It will take some time for this transition to balance out.

  4. What a great piece. Thanks for sharing it Carol. It’s sad but it highlights how deeply engrained the sense of inferiority exists in so many women that they believe they are responsible for being assaulted. Domestic violence is complex but the one clear thing is that it is (usually)the man who decides to use violence.

  5. Wow! How beautifully written, wonderfully expressed and so true. Thank you for Sharing

  6. Great article, thank you for sharing. It seems there also needs to be discussion/action into how to help the abuser. Yes, if you’re the one receiving the abuse then flee. However the abuser doesn’t just stop because his/her partner has left. What help is there for them?

  7. Very powerful read, thank you for sharing this it sends a great message how planting just one small seed can change a persons life and perspective of themselves. Thanks Carol for giving the community a voice again, keep up the good work.

  8. Very powerful read, it just goes to show how powerful planting one small seed can be by changing a life or a persons perspective of themselves. Thanks Carol for giving the community a voice again.

  9. A great piece and so relevant to so many women out there. Unfortunately, even with all the publicity it is given, it is still a somewhat hidden crime. It is humiliating for women to have to report to police or even tell their friends that the person who is meant to love them is committing this crime, often on a regular basis. I was 7 months pregnant with my third child when I left my husband, due to domestic violence. I had made the decision that if I bought my sons up witnessing this sort of behaviour, they would grow up thinking it was normal and the way that men “handled” situations. It was not an easy thing to do but I now have three grown men who are certainly not perfect but I believe 99.9% would never hit a women. This would not be the case if I had stayed.

  10. Carol a beautiful & powerfully written piece which sadly too many of us have witnessed or experienced. Many females in abusive situations feel it’s their fault, that they have done wrong; that they can change the abusive person which of course isn’t true.
    I wonder why there’s so much domestic violence with mainly angry, abusive men (there are women as well).
    Domestic violence & abuse in society seems to be getting worse but when you see what is happening in the world – I guess that comes as no surprise.
    The fabric of community & society is being eroded as various governments have taken community & local council support away by ceasing to fund organisations which support the vulnerable & mentally challenged in our societies.
    Drugs and alcohol are also part of the problem but a lack of self esteem for both men and women.
    Maybe schools could create a full time subject related to positive family roles, anger management, how to deal with dis-functional abusive family members, drug & alcohol awareness with reformed guest speakers who have turned their lives around. Start this education early so that personal issues are flagged up earlier and possibly dealt with by a communications channel being opened.
    The world is in a very unstable place at the moment with so many greedy powerful people in charge who couldn’t give a damn about anything except making profits & maintaining power and their opulent lifestyles – but that is for another discussion.
    Thank you for sharing this Carol – beautifully written and agree with all your sentiments, so sorry you were treated in such a dreadful way by flagging up topless dancing in Warrnambool. I must be naive, as I thought topless dancing was something from a previous decade – agree it is demeaning and find it sad that women feel the need to support it.

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