Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends With Us” says, “Shouldn't there be more distaste in our mouths for the abusers than for those who continue to love the abusers?”
Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program, or SAP, and the Women’s Center have teamed up to have a safe discussion surrounding domestic violence in the form of the 2016 book “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover. Director of SAP Kim Rouse planned the event in hopes to have an open conversation about the nuances of domestic violence using the recently popularized book.
Hoover’s fictional book covers the topic by portraying the reality of an abusive cycle and the difficulties of leaving. With the rising popularity of “It Ends With Us,” the conversation of toxic relationships and domestic violence has been heightened, as the topics written by Hoover are being discussed by real-life victims.
As for the discussion being held at the Women’s Center, the staff understands the vulnerability and trust that is needed to discuss these topics which through Title IX, the event had been exempted from mandatory reporting, Rouse said.
“We know that having supportive spaces and open conversations can be healing for survivors,” said Rouse in an email. “While the discussion will be about the characters in the book, we know that sometimes people can relate to those experiences and may wish to share while discussing.”
With the popularity of “It Ends With Us,” there have also been some critics that believe the story romanticizes the idea of an abusive relationship. Rouse said she addresses these critiques in defense of Hoover.
“I believe the book does a good job of helping the reader understand the nuances of domestic violence and the difficult decisions that survivors must face in these situations,” she said via email. “I think the author showed the ‘good’ parts of the abuser in this book because that is often reality. Showing the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts of this character helped the reader have a more realistic understanding of domestic violence relationships and the challenges survivors face. People don’t often get into relationships that are all bad from the start, the violence builds over time and oftentimes their lives are so enmeshed at this point that it is even more difficult to leave.”
The relationship between books and the audience is reliant on vulnerability, which allows authors to write about difficult subjects and ask questions that leave the audience relating to the character's experiences by interpreting them into their own feelings. While victims of domestic violence need to be highlighted to normalize the support they deserve, Ann Brandon, director of prevention and education for SAP, said the media must also remind the audience of the abuser and their unprovoked acts of abuse instead of blaming victims and survivors.
Brandon said people must be careful when discussing abuse so as to not focus on teaching people to protect themselves and instead wonder why an abuser acts the way that they do. She said prevention messaging regarding protection from abuse is inefficient, as there is little to no evidence protection prevents abuse at all.
“We are asking the wrong question; we should be asking why does someone perpetrate abuse?” Brandon said in an email. “We need to stop talking about what you could do to ‘protect yourself,’ because if that worked—domestic violence wouldn’t be a global issue. We need to focus on root causes that allow violence to happen and holding those who harm accountable. Lastly, as bystanders we need to promote that violence isn’t ok, and everyone should do their part.”
Not only did this month’s discussion shed light on victims, but also it highlighted those who want to be supportive and an ally toward those suffering through difficult situations. Brianna Hunt, a master's student in the college student personnel program, recommended “It Ends With Us” to anyone wanting to be an ally or even to learn more about the subject,
“It’s a very good book, it’s very easy to read,” said Hunt. “And also, it’s very easy to empathize with Lily, the main character, and learn through her as her own mindset about the issue shifts.”
Rouse also agreed that those looking at how to start an allyship should read this book as well.
“I hope that nothing ever ‘normalizes’ the topic of domestic violence as it is something that we (should) never be complacent or okay with,” Rouse said in an email. “I think this book has opened up the discussion and allowed readers to better understand domestic violence situations. It is easy for someone on the outside to question how someone ‘puts up with’ certain behaviors or why they don’t leave, but in my opinion, this book does a good job of showing all the nuances and challenges associated with domestic violence. I hope that those who read this book leave with a newfound empathy and understanding for the survivor experience.”
Both the SAP and the Women’s Center at Ohio University provide an outlet for those who need support or guidance, for any situation, no questions asked. And with the success of “It Ends With Us,” Rouse believes the book will bring understanding to those hesitant on the topic.
“While I know this book is a really challenging and potentially triggering read, I am really happy that it has gained popularity and is being discussed,” she said in an email. “Domestic and dating violence is often such a private, intimate experience and it is difficult for outsiders to truly understand. While I recognize the story in this book is by no means representative of all situations, it is a helpful tool in understanding and building empathy of the survivor experience.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or assault please visit contact SAP at https://www.ohio.edu/survivor, My Sister’s Place, a local shelter, at https://www.mspathens.org/ or the Ohio Domestic Violence Network at https://www.odvn.org.