Some of Australia's best lettering artists have joined forces to raise awareness of domestic violence by pointing out how the ordinary language we use about love underscores a frightening reality.
Amy Constable of Saint Gertrude Letterpress, JOY Sydney and Domestic Violence NSW, with sponsorship from K.W. Doggett, have created a range of cards that seem, on the face of it, to be regular Valentine's cards.
"I ache for you", "you knock me off my feet", "you're all I can think about", "you take my breath away", "I love you so much it hurts" — all metaphorical expressions of affection bound to be uttered all over the world on Valentine's Day.
But for many women, these expressions aren't metaphorical. Romantic relationships can be harmful, possessive and violent. These expressions go beyond cute, exaggerated phrases of affection and point towards a frightening reality.
Global estimates from the World Health Organization found that worldwide, almost one-third of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence from their partner. Further, as many as 38 per cent of murders of women are committed by a partner.
The new cards, which have been made in collaboration with lettering artists Carla Hackett, Kate Pullen, Eliza Svikulis, Magda Ksiezak and Lyn Tran, hauntingly point out the eye-opening fact that a lot of the ordinary phrases we use to talk about love implicitly evoke images of pain.
The designs are exquisite, with a pastel colour scheme and vibrant lettering, and wouldn't look out of place in the Valentine's section of a quality card shop or department store. They fit the mould perfectly of a luxury gift one might pick for their partner.
But what might look like the height of romance can have a dangerous edge. It can be difficult to notice the difference, especially in a society where we talk about love with the expectation that it hurts. Little girls growing up are told that boys are mean to them because they like them. And even when we're older, the passion of love is often described with violent terminology. We "fall" into it, we have "crushes", we experience the "ache" of longing, we risk our heart being "broken".
The conflation of love and pain in the very threads of the English language may contribute to the difficulty in spotting domestic violence or realising that it may be happening to you. Domestic violence can be insidious, especially in its early stages. According to the US National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 70 per cent of cases go unreported. These cards ask us to reflect on the fine line between love and pain, something we all need to be aware of in order to help out those who are at risk.
The proceeds from the sale of the cards will go directly to Domestic Violence NSW, an organisation that offers resources and advocacy for those experiencing domestic violence, and can be purchased directly from Saint Gertrude Letterpress and mag nation.
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