Twitter hashtag sheds light on the partner abuse that's often forgotten

May 11, 2016 at 11:52 p.m. ET
Image: Ronaldregidor/Moment/Getty Images

What comes to mind when someone talks about domestic abuse?

If you're like many, you think of the physical violence that often occurs in toxic relationships. This, of course, is what we think of because the physical signs are there — the bruises, the broken bones. Emotional abuse can be just as traumatic in relationships, if not more so, but people often don't recognize it.

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And it needs to stop.

Artist and writer Zahira Kelly created the #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou hashtag earlier this month to call attention to emotional abuse and the lasting pain it causes. The hashtag started trending quickly, with thousands of women sharing their experiences of the cruel words, manipulation and gaslighting that happens in these relationships.

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"Women's primary cause of harm and death is abuse from their loved one. The toll is in the millions and has been especially damaging to colonized women such as myself," Kelly told Bustle.

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It's "especially damaging" because it's not readily recognized. And when it is? The victims are often blamed — both by their partners and other people outside the relationship who dismiss it.

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"We are left without recourse," she added.

The hashtag brings awareness, but it also creates a community for victims — both female and male — to realize they aren't alone.

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"This is not an area we get support for, so these online [conversations] function as makeshift support groups and therapy," said Kelly.

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