Domestic Violence Victims Expose the Truth Behind “Perfect” Instagrams

  • Home violence survivors are flipping the script on “picture-perfect” social media narratives.
  • Some are utilizing TikTok to dismantle the Instagrams they shared whereas in abusive relationships. 
  • “I used to be reminded of how deliberately I used to be making an attempt to painting a life that wasn’t aligned with actuality,” mentioned one survivor. 

Within the 2017 picture, Jen Schwarz is smiling and softly touching her ex-boyfriend’s hand whereas they stand outdoor on a wood bridge. At that time of their relationship, Schwarz was head-over-heels in love with him, posing throughout a visit they took collectively, glad to be in a protected relationship. They appear like a contented couple.

In a TikTok video, present-day Schwarz tells the story of what occurred just a few days after that picture was taken, when her relationship turned abusive.


“That is an attention-grabbing image as a result of it is on the very finish of the love-bombing part,” she says to the digicam whereas the picture is greenscreened behind her. Love-bombing is a manipulation tactic employed by home abusers and narcissists the place the sufferer is bombed with over-the-top shows of affection. Many consultants view love-bombing as a warning signal {that a} relationship will flip emotionally abusive.

“A pair days from when this image was taken, we might spend the whole day out and in of hospitals and pressing care as a result of he was making an attempt to get painkillers,” Schwarz continues. “And he was driving the rental automobile that I paid for, in my identify, and was so offended that he was punching the partitions and punching the roof of the automobile and the steering wheel, and he is getting his knuckles all bloody and minimize up and he is getting blood within the automobile.”

In a four-part sequence on TikTok, Schwarz goes by means of the Instagram pictures she posted of her earlier relationship, revealing horrifying tales of emotional and bodily abuse behind the picture-perfect moments she curated whereas struggling abuse. “I want I might return and shake that woman and inform her to get out,” she says on the finish of one in every of her tales.


Schwarz was impressed to make this sequence to boost consciousness round home violence and the way it would not all the time appear like the normal picture of the battered girl. Many home violence victims take nice pains to create a social media presence that provides an ideal, anesthetized model of their relationship. 

However after seeing different survivors on TikTok add comparable movies the place they revealed the abuse behind romantic, idealized photographs with the greenscreen filter, Schwarz determined to hitch in.

Destroying the concept of a ‘picture-perfect’ relationship

“Scrolling by means of outdated photos of me and my ex, I used to be reminded of how deliberately I used to be making an attempt to painting a life that wasn’t aligned with actuality,” Schwarz advised Insider. “It is essential to inform the tales behind these picture-perfect moments as a result of it breaks down the stereotypes of what we’re advised home violence seems to be like.” 

Schwarz has obtained hundreds of feedback from individuals who associated to her content material and had been in a position to validate their very own experiences after understanding that abuse is greater than bodily violence. “Sharing tales like these helps to drag again the curtain and assist survivors really feel validated and to heal,” Schwarz mentioned.

For H.L., 21, one other survivor who shared her experiences together with her abusive ex in an analogous format and most popular to maintain herself nameless, it is all about elevating consciousness for folks of her era. “I needed to achieve my age group, and TikTok is one of the simplest ways to try this,” she advised Insider. “And whether or not it’s any person seeing this and recognizing among the indicators that they are seeing of their relationship, or I’ve had just a few girls come ahead and say, hey, I do know this man. He simply was flirting with me, like two months in the past.” 


Whereas Schwarz’s movies targeted on telling tales behind particular Instagram moments, H.L.’s video confirmed Instagram moments adopted by recordings of her ex being verbally abusive to her. The stark distinction between how the connection seemed to be and the way it actually was creates a strong distinction.

“That is how all people else noticed the connection versus what goes on behind closed doorways,” she mentioned. “You possibly can take photos all day lengthy. However as quickly as you place that digicam down, you by no means know what’s taking place. There have been not less than 4 or 5 pictures that I had in my digicam roll the place they had been dwell pictures, and you may see, as I am taking it, he is like forcing us to smile, after which I put it down. And as I am placing it down, you may hear him begin getting aggravated with me. I feel it is simply actually essential to point out that not the whole lot is what it appears.”

Sharing the truth behind these photographs is a part of the therapeutic course of for some survivors


Because the second-wave feminist motion within the Seventies, storytelling has been an important a part of elevating consciousness round gender-based violence. Survivors could have gathered round kitchen tables to share their experiences of home violence and join with each other in solidarity, or spoke out concerning the violence they suffered at public occasions as a manner of shifting victim-blaming depictions of rape and advocating for the criminalization of sexual violence. 

Amy Hill is the director of the Silence Speaks program at StoryCenter, which helps survivors of gender-based violence share their tales. Hill says that storytelling — in particular person or on social media — can help therapeutic, training, and advocacy for survivors. Nonetheless, she warns that home violence survivors needs to be cautious when importing their content material in order to not put themselves additional liable to retaliation from their abusers. 

“This is a crucial problem with utilizing social media on this manner: guaranteeing that survivors are usually not put liable to additional hurt,” Hill mentioned. “I’d urge people who find themselves desirous about posting on this solution to TikTok to fastidiously assess whether or not it is protected for them to take action, particularly if there’s a present authorized case associated to their expertise.”

It is not unusual for ladies who converse out to undergo deadly penalties for merely talking their fact on social media. Hill says there are methods for survivors to point out photographs that convey the concept of what is behind the shiny exterior, with out exhibiting their very own faces or revealing their identities. Schwarz, for instance, blocked out her ex’s face within the pictures she confirmed in her movies.

When unsure, survivors ought to search for sources on-line on easy methods to share their story safely, like RAINN’s information for social media consumption for survivors. Setting boundaries round what you share and the place can go a good distance in guaranteeing survivors’ security.

For Schwarz and H.L., posting their experiences on TikTok helped them really feel much less alone and created a supportive neighborhood of survivors round them. Whereas each of them have obtained merciless feedback right here and there, a lot of the commenters are receptive to their message that home violence would not all the time look the identical. 

“We have to speak extra overtly concerning the actuality, so folks understand home violence doesn’t discriminate and it is probably taking place round you and even to you with out realizing,” Schwarz mentioned. “Home violence will proceed to be wildly prevalent till we will shift the dialog from the shadows to the sunshine.”

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