Why is it so hard to see black and blue?

Two weeks ago, a dress went viral online with some people claiming it appeared white and gold and other people claiming it was actually black and blue. Last week, it appeared in a campaign for the Salvation Army South Africa with the caption, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”


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This is one of the most important messages for people everywhere. Why can’t we see domestic violence? Why can’t we see the victims?

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The answer is because of the illusion. Because of the façade that people put up either to protect themselves from embarrassment that shouldn’t exist or because they feel they have no choice. I’ve watched an abusive relationship for years without realising it. Why? Because I was caught by the illusion – I saw the white and gold, not the black and blue.

They were friends of my husband and myself and had been since our kids were in grade one together. We raised our children together with child minding, sleepovers and school drop offs and pick ups between the four of us.

For their 30-year wedding anniversary they had a dinner celebration with four other couples. It was beautiful and I sat there smiling at them, thinking about how blessed they were because it’s so lucky to find the one person who treats you better than you’ll ever treat yourself.

They were hilarious and every moment we spent together was filled with bickering that gave us hundreds of laughs. We’d laugh along with them as they gave each other some stick but one night, it appears that the funny to-and-fro took a dramatic twist.

It was a hysterical phone call in the middle of the night from my dear friend. She needed help and fast. I will never forget the fear I heard in her voice, it still gives me chills today.

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My husband and I jumped into the car and went over, we found the front door to their house open, their car gone and she was curled up in the bathroom. This was the first time I realised that she was in an abusive relationship and was the victim of domestic violence.

All of those years we’d laughed along with their bickering, but that was just an illusion and a façade. For the last eight years the relationship had turned sour and those funny little quips were serious insults. They’d go home, argue about what they said and then he’d get violent.

We only saw the white and gold of that relationship, never the black and blue. It was hidden from us and we didn’t even try to see it.

The way the Salvation Army used this dress was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. It is such a real message that people need to understand. On the surface things may look happy and healthy, but far too often, that is an illusion.

Right now, one woman every week dies at the hands of a current or former partner. Domestic violence is the leading cause of death for Australian women under 45. Domestic violence is an epidemic in Australia. We donate and spend millions on treating, researching and preventing diseases and illnesses that are responsible for fewer deaths than this – so why hasn’t Australia taken the same approach to domestic violence?


Why don’t we see the black and blue? Have you witnessed or experienced this yourself? How do we change it?