Spreading information and sharing personal stories of abuse is one of the most effective ways to reduce domestic violence and help victims get the support they need. There are many excellent books, movies, TV shows, and podcasts available to help educate people in a variety of media forms and narrative styles. Another impactful means of disseminating this information is through TED Talks. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short (10-20 minute), powerful speeches. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and began in 1984 as a conference about those subjects. It grew to a variety of formats and many thousands of talks, in hundreds of languages, covering almost all topics imaginable, including domestic violence. TEDx events are a popular expansion of TED. They abide by the TED format, receive guidance from TED, and are under free license granted by TED, but are organized independently and not controlled by the nonprofit itself. Most TED and TEDx talks are recorded and shared on the TED website and on the YouTube channels for TED and TEDx. Below is a collection of some of the most enlightening, moving, and inspiring talks about abuse and related topics.

Infographic with a smartphone and the words, "A survey of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that 85% reported that a partner or ex-partner had called them crazy, 73% said that a partner or ex-partner had deliberately done things to make them feel they were going crazy or losing their mind, 50% reported that a partner or ex-partner had threatened to report to the aurthorities that they were crazy as a way to keep them from getting certain important goals such as custody of the children, medication, or protective orders

Watch the embedded YouTube video here or click the title of each talk to view it on TED’s website (not all appear on TED.com). Some TED pages may have additional information and/or resources.

General Domestic Violence Information

Domestic Violence: What Everyone Needs to Know – Hannah Petrillo

Hannah Petrillo is a domestic violence survivor who cites examples from her experience of abuse to illustrate the complexities and horrifying statistics of the issue. She also uses explanations like the “boiling frog” analogy (a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water, but if the water is slowly heated, it won’t perceive the danger and will boil to death) to explain the deviousness of abuse. This talk gives a good overview of how victims can become trapped in an abusive relationship, barriers to leaving, tactics such as love bombing, concepts such as the Power and Control Wheel and Cycle of Abuse, and early warning signs of abuse.

How We Turned the Tide on Domestic Violence (Hint: The Polaroid Helped) – Esta Soler

Former emergency room worker and domestic violence activist Esta Soler discusses her experience with treating abuse victims in the ER during the 1980s and how she helped grow a network to assist them. She started with taking polaroid photographs of their injuries, giving them to the victims, and encouraging them to use them as evidence in pursuing legal action against their abusers. This localized effort spurred her to work on changing laws that led to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, getting information out about domestic violence, engaging men in the issue, and continued activism today as President of Futures Without Violence.

How One Question Can Have an Impact on Stopping Domestic Violence – Kirsten Regtop

Geared toward people to whom they might turn for support, Dutch social worker Kirsten Regtop highlights three “invisible walls” to victims talking about their experience of abuse. The first wall is their own fears of starting a conversation, be they of others’ reactions or of saying something that would worsen the situation. The second wall is victim blaming, that the confidante says something to make the victim feel worse or distrust them. The third wall is the victim’s feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety, which she says can only be broken down by the victims themselves. Regtop calls for everyone to break through isolation, and to educate themselves about how to support victims and avoid judgement. She believes the simple feeling of not being alone can have a much bigger impact than most people imagine.

It’s Time to Talk About Psychological and Verbal Abuse – Lizzy Glazer

Lizzy Glazer shares some general domestic violence information and then focuses on verbal and psychological abuse. She cites examples of tactics her father used to abuse her and the rest of her family, pointing out individualized “weaknesses” in each family member or shouting tirades when displeased, making them all feel worthless and deserving of humiliation and shame. Glazer began to believe the terrible things he said about her and felt completely alone. She calls for society to recognize the equal harm of non-physical forms of abuse and shares five common signs of abuse to be aware of.

How Online Abuse of Women Has Spiraled Out of Control – Ashley Judd

Actress, survivor, and activist prominent in the #MeToo movement, Ashley Judd recounts the harsh language and comments she had seen about herself on social media to exemplify the rampant online abuse that all too many people experience. She talks about how it feels to hear terrible things being said about her and wondering if they may actually be true. Judd focuses most on online sexual abuse against women and girls, including “revenge porn”. She explains how she uses her platform to promote digital media literacy to law enforcement and the public in general, anti-sexism, the reduction of misogyny and violence in video games and other online content, and updating legal language surrounding abuse to be tech neutral.

Warning: this TED talk includes graphic and crude language.

Hindered Help: African American Partner Violence Victims – Bernardine Waller

Professor, social worker, and proud African American woman Bernardine Waller asks why black people are so much more likely to experience domestic violence, to stay with abusive partners, and to be murdered by an intimate partner, compared to white people. She discusses the cultural norms in the black community and stereotypical attitudes of law enforcement toward black people that contribute to this disproportionate statistic. Waller outlines the challenges of misunderstandings and a lack of information among emergency shelter workers, medical professionals, and community leaders that result in a deficiency of services and support for African Americans. She calls for a greater understanding from all those in these positions, to stop, ask, think, and listen to enable real support for black abuse victims.

The Language of Abuse in South Asian Communities – Sangeetha Menon

Sangeetha Menon discusses the cultural treatment of abuse (or lack thereof) in South Asia in terms of language. There is no direct translation for the term “domestic violence” in any of the hundreds of native languages and dialects in that region. It’s not that people just don’t talk about it, they cannot properly talk about it. Domestic violence is not an issue that is acknowledged by many people, and victims often do not realize they are being abused. Menon talks about how some aspects of South Asian culture, such as extended family living together, result in distinctive (and sometimes compounding) methods of abuse. She says South Asian immigrants to the US often bring their patriarchal ideas with them, and though laws and understandings about domestic violence may be different in the US, victims face additional barriers to support, such as issue identification, language, and immigration status. Menon calls for support organizations to provide culturally specific services and for the language of domestic violence to be introduced into South Asian communities.

The Shadow Pandemic of Domestic Violence During COVID-19 – Kemi DaSilva-Ibru

Nigerian obstetrician and gynecologist Kemi DaSilva-Ibru gave this short TED talk in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns. She discusses the “shadow pandemic”, the worldwide increase in domestic violence from the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with victims trapped at home with their abusers, and how her Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) was able to assist victims through the particularly difficult conditions and isolation in Nigeria. WARIF were able to train first responders and community “gatekeepers” to go to rural communities and spread awareness, information, and resources to help women trapped with abusers.

Why Victims Stay

Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave – Leslie Morgan Steiner

Leslie Morgan Steiner is a survivor and author of the book, “Crazy Love”, one of DVSN’s recommendations in our March 2022 blog post, “Learning Through Story Telling: What to Read & Watch About Domestic Violence”. In her TED Talk, Steiner uses her experience of domestic violence to talk about why victims stay with their abusers. She provides a lot of information about abuse, love bombing, isolation, manipulation, and the difficulties of leaving an abusive partner, woven throughout the story of her ex-husband’s abusive behavior. Steiner stives to help other victims and survivors and break the silence on domestic violence.

A Mile in Her Shoes: Changing Perspective on Domestic Violence – Ryan Calvert

Prosecuting attorney Ryan Calvert lays out a wide variety of reasons why domestic violence victims react differently to abuse by intimate partners and family members than they would to abuse by a stranger, why it can be so challenging and complicated to leave and/or prosecute an abuser. He talks about how some victims’ choices can seem irrational and even ludicrous from the outside but that there are often hidden reasons that make perfect sense. Calvert calls for greater understanding of victims’ perspectives, thinking through repercussions to ensure legal reactions actually help victims rather than making the situation worse, and to stop judging the conduct of the victim rather than the conduct of the perpetrator.

The Courage to Leave – Norah Casey

Norah Casey is a highly successful TV and radio personality, author, publisher, entrepreneur, and survivor who stayed with her abusive partner longer than she wished she had. She talks about why victims stay with their abusers by asking how they can leave. Casey breaks down her abusive relationship into four phases: seduction through love bombing, delusion that she was the problem, reawakening to the reality of the abuse, and the act of leaving. She talks about the barriers she faced in leaving her abuser and how it is the most dangerous time for a victim. Casey hopes that everyone can learn from her story and that it can help other victims find their path to leaving. 

Why I Stayed, Why I Left – Mada Tsagia-Papadakou

Mada Tsagia-Papadakou shares her story of being abused and how her abuser gained more and more control over her. She details the Cycle of Abuse and explains how it lines up with her experience. Tsagia-Papadakou feels the reason many victims, including herself, go back to abusers multiple times is because at the moment they want to leave, their abuser shifts the cycle into the remorse and romance of the “honeymoon” phase, which makes the victim feel they have their power back and gives them hope for change in the relationship. She believes she was addicted to her abuser and his abusive pattern of behavior, which made it so hard to leave. Tsagia-Papadakou did eventually get away from her abuser but did not realize what she had experienced was abuse until years later, when she was finally able to begin to heal and to help others in similar situations.

Men and Domestic Violence

Suffering in Silence: The Emotional Abuse of Men – Dr. Timothy Golden

Dr. Timothy Golden tells the story of man who grew up with a father with a chauvinistic and “traditional” view of gender roles, who instilled in him that men don’t talk about their feelings, and they certainly don’t cry. They keep going and ignore the pain. As an adult, the man’s wife began to repeatedly tell him how unattractive he was and be rude and antagonistic about his appearance. He carried on in the relationship and didn’t talk about this to anyone, as he had been taught. Finally, feeling horribly depressed and worthless, he googled his symptoms and realized he was being emotionally abused. He reached out to his church and some male friends for support but found them unhelpful. He proceeded with plans to kill himself until finally reaching out for clinical intervention and getting the help he needed. Golden calls for more attention on people’s “inner lives” and for men to share their stories and no longer suffer in silence. 

Violence Against Women: It’s a Men’s Issue – Jackson Katz

Acknowledging the effort of women to spotlight the issue of gender-based violence and engage men on the topic, Jackson Katz posits that domestic violence is more about men. He exemplifies how language often used to talk about this issue subconsciously takes the blame and focus off the abusers and puts it on the victims. Katz suggests we need to adjust the language and the emphasis back onto the perpetrators (men in his gender-based examples) and ask why they abuse, how it is normalized and supported in society, and how we can work to change these norms and promote healthy relationships for all, rather than only focus on things victims (women in his examples) can do to increase their safety. Creator and co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, which advocates the ‘bystander approach’ to sexual and domestic violence prevention, Katz challenges men in positions of power to embrace leadership roles in changing the culture surrounding gender issues and domestic violence.

Men, Own Your Role in Domestic Violence – Christan Rainey

Christan Rainey lost his entire family when his mother and four siblings were killed by his stepfather. This tragedy motived Rainey to educate students about domestic violence with three key points. The first is the importance of establishing healthy gender roles early on by expanding them beyond the traditional stereotypes, so people won’t feel the need or pressure to control their partner’s position in the relationship. Secondly, Rainey calls for men to be more active participants in domestic violence awareness and prevention. His third point stresses age-appropriate proactive education about bullying and power and control to try to prevent future domestic violence. He believes educating young people about healthy relationships and having parents and figures of authority model them can make huge strides in changing the culture of abuse.

Child Abuse & Children of Abused Parents

How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Nadine Burke Harris

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris speaks about how childhood trauma stemming from experiences of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, neglect, or parents with substance abuse or mental health issues has a direct and significant correlation with greater risk of major health problems, such as heart disease, lung cancer, hepatitis, and depression. She began researching the effect of “adverse childhood experiences”, or “ACEs” on brain development and health and found that the more ACEs in someone’s youth, the higher the risk of health issues and the likelihood to engage in high-risk behavior as an adult. Repeated trauma and high doses of adversity in children impairs brain structure and function, and the development of the immune system, hormonal systems, and how DNA is read and transcribed. Harris calls ACEs the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing the country today but talks about using this knowledge to change our response to the issue, educate parents, and intervene at an early age to try to interrupt the progression to later health issues.

From Victim to Survivor: Find Your X… But First, Find Your (Wh)Y? – Lauren Book

Lauren Book tells her story of childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by her beloved and trusted nanny. She uses the idiom “fight, flight, or freeze” to describe her paralyzed reaction to the abuse and why she didn’t tell anyone about it for years. Book talks about feeling guilty, ashamed, and self-doubting, and how her abuser used these feeling to manipulate and control her. She gives statistics and discusses the effects of childhood trauma that can persist long into adulthood, sharing how she finally moved from victim to survivor to thriver. Now as a teacher, Book strives to urge herself and others to dig deeper and ask why, to advocate for children experiencing abuse who may, like her, be unsure of how, or unable, to do so for themselves. 

Domestic Violence: A Child’s Perspective – Abi Cole

Abi Cole provides many statistics on domestic violence, then uses the example of her abusive father’s behavior toward her mother and siblings to illustrate the different challenges and barriers that child victims and witnesses face compared to adult victims. She also pulls from her experience with UK police responding to domestic violence to call for greater education and funding for abuse training, and medical and legal professionals to recognize the equal or greater impact of emotional and verbal abuse versus physical abuse and change laws and increase services appropriately.

Domestic Violence: I Choose to Be Her Voice – Haylee Reay

Haylee Reay shares the emotional story of her perspective of the day her father brutally murdered her mother and the aftermath. Not only did she loose both her parents in different ways that day, but her father then attempted to accuse her of her mother’s death. He was ultimately found guilty, and Reay never saw him again. As an adult, she has chosen to use this experience to be the voice her mother no longer has, to speak out about domestic violence for her. She is a dedicated advocate calling for people to help be the voice of victims who are afraid to speak out and to educate themselves about coercive control and the different forms of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence from a Son’s Perspective – Adam Herbst

High school senior Adam Herbst gives an overview of what domestic violence encompasses and its effects. He provides insight from his own childhood experience having physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive parents and brother. He believes many attempts to eradicate domestic violence are simply “throwing money at the issue” and don’t actually create any change. Herbst calls for society to remove the causes of abuse and control the effects. He cites examples from pop culture of the normalization of abuse that need to stop and stresses the importance of listening to victims. Herbst believes people have cultivated a society where it’s not okay to talk about abuse, where cultural stigma keeps so many victims from speaking out and reporting abuse, and that this needs to change.

Survivor Voices

I Broke My Silence: My Story of Domestic Violence – Emma Murphy

This TED Talk begins with a video speaker Emma Murphy posted to social media just after she left her abusive partner, tearfully detailing their relationship, his abuse, her feelings, and why she finally left and wanted to share her story. The video went viral, garnering millions of views in just 24 hours. Murphy thinks this is because many people could identify with her experience. Bolstered by this unexpected reach, she decided to use the video as a tool for domestic violence awareness, showing the effects of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. She credits the response to her video with helping her find her voice and reclaim her life.

Not Another Victim: I’m an Empowered Survivor Defendant – Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander gives an overview of her life story and everything she thinks led to finding herself a victim of domestic violence. Finally realizing she was being abused, Alexander called the police after an incident and took out a protective order against her abusive partner. Wanting to give him another chance, she started seeing him again, modifying her protective order to non-violence instead of no contact. The abuse did not end, however, and in an attempt to stop a particularly violent assault where her abuser threatened to kill her, Alexander fired one warning shot from a gun. She was arrested, charged with aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Alexander feels many abuse victims face the same choice she did: let the violence continue and risk losing their life or defend themselves and risk losing their freedom. Those who choose the latter often become “survivor defendants”, people who were victims of a violent act at the time they were charged with a crime, and that violence was a contributing factor to the crime for which they were prosecuted. Alexander wants to raise awareness about domestic violence to help keep others from having to face the choice she did and be punished for surviving.

How We Talk About Sexual Assault Online – Ione Wells

Ione Wells tells the story of being sexually assaulted by a stranger on the street and working through the shame, embarrassment, confusion, and fear she felt after that experience by writing a letter to her unknown abuser. She published the letter online, calling for others who had also been sexually assaulted to push past their own shame and fear to share their experiences. The letter went viral, spurring hundreds of responses from people and a global #NotGuilty campaign. The personal narratives and messages of hope brought attention to longstanding issues, though Wells calls out how the plethora of online reactions belied the lack of actual real-world change. She discusses how the anonymity of social media allows people to spew abusive language without any repercussions, and also provides suggestions to promote giving voice to issues without blaming victims or spreading hate.

Battered Not Broken: The Journey of Redemption After Abuse – Marica Phipps

Marica Phipps talks about her experience of abuse, and, in particular, one occasion where her partner nearly killed her, and why she still went back to him. She feels this is because she wanted her children to have a father and to be married and prove she could have a stable relationship, and also because of her partner’s manipulations that made going back to him seem to make sense. Phipps rationalized her partner’s behavior, making excuses for him, until she was finally able to see the reality of the situation and leave him. Leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for a victim, as it turned out to be for Phipps, as her now ex-partner once again tried to kill her. Though she took legal action against him, it took two years for him to face any consequences for the brutal assault. Phipps credits her faith with coming through the experience and turning a terrible situation into a nonprofit organization that educates, supports, and empowers victims of domestic violence.

Warning: this TED Talk contains graphic photos of injuries.

Building Healthy Relationships

The Difference Between Healthy & Unhealthy Love – Katie Hood

Katie Hood shares the mission of the “One Love” organization: to provide the language to discuss domestic violence, empower people to help victims and survivors, and improve everyone’s ability to love better. She uses short, animated videos contrasting examples of healthy and unhealthy love, followed by detailed explanations, to illustrate five signs of abusive behavior: intensity, isolation, extreme jealousy, belittling, and volatility. Hood points out the difference between the occasional unhealthy moment, which she says happens in even the healthiest relationships, and a pattern of unhealthy behavior. She feels knowing signs like these can help improve connections with all loved ones, not just romantic partners, and enrich many other aspects of life as well.

Skills for Healthy Romantic Relationships – Joanne Davila

Psychologist and researcher Joanne Davila talks about qualities of healthy relationships, but also how to have one. She believes before beginning any romantic relationship, everyone needs to know what they want and need in a partner and relationship, how to select the right person, and how to develop and use skills to maintain a healthy relationship. Davila stresses the importance of early education on this topic and has identified three skills to learn for “romantic competence”: insight, mutuality, and emotional regulation. She discusses how research led her to identify these essential skills and the benefits of the “romantic competence” they foster, and gives details and examples of each skill and how they can help people find and maintain a healthy relationship.

The multitude of horrific stories, staggering statistics, and useful information contained in these TED Talks makes them tremendous resources for domestic violence victims, advocates, and for the general public to learn more about this issue in an engaging way. There are more talks available online to discover and surely more powerful speeches on this and related subjects yet to be made. The great number and extensive reach of TED Talks about domestic violence gives hope that more people will be educated about abuse and real strides will be made to eradicate it.

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