After spending an evening perusing videos on YouTube, I came across a video that really made me think. These days very few things make me think, as it is very rare that they make me want get up and have a debate however this video, certainly did! The video in question was found on the YouTube channel of a woman dubbed ‘the human barbie’, a woman who recently created quite a stir on television programme This Morning because she gave her 8 year old daughter vouchers for cosmetic surgery for her birthday. The woman I am referring to is Sarah Burge.
Sarah was the victim of a terrible campaign of domestic violence when she was younger; her face was beaten into an unrecognisable pulp, and so she (rightly so) had reconstructive surgery on her face to repair the damage inflicted by a man she once loved and trusted. Domestic violence is a disgusting and terrible thing, whilst the phrase connotes the idea that it happens in marriages within homes; that isn’t always the case. Domestic violence can occur in relationships where the two parties do not live together, and you don’t even have to have been with a person for a long period of time to be a victim of it.
“What I’d like to ask you Grace is, is whether you actually want to resurrect the old you in regards to the way that you looked, or would you like to re-invent somebody else and completely change the way that you look?”
Domestic violence doesn’t just present in a physical manifestation; it also includes verbal abuse, and this can be just as detrimental to a person as physical violence. Whilst it is of great importance to heal the physical wounds caused by domestic violence; it is in my opinion more important (once the physical wounds have healed) to focus on the effect the violence has had on the mind of the victim. If you can strengthen the mind of a victim of domestic violence, there is a stronger chance they will be better equipped to leave the person causing the violence.
The video was uploaded via Sarah’s YouTube account on the 9th of May 2012, and it’s entitled ‘Sarah Burge meets Domestic Violence Survivor’; after watching various television programmes where Sarah is the interviewee, I was interested to see how she would come across in a video where the focus wasn’t on herself, and how she would fair in the role of the ‘interviewer’.
I don’t know for certain, but there is something about the video that doesn’t sit right with me, and makes me believe it could have allegedly been filmed using an actress to play the domestic abuse survivor (This would make complete sense, as for a lot of domestic abuse victims as they feel it can be too dangerous to come forward for fear of repercussions. However there is no disclaimer in the video stating this). For a video that is supposed to be focusing on Grace Brown the survivor, there are a lot of dramatic close-ups of Sarah, and to me it comes across that this video may be a way for her to advocate the importance of plastic surgery in the road to recovery of a domestic violence survivor.
The message the video sends to victims of domestic violence is a little biased and leans heavily on the idea that you need plastic surgery and plastic surgery only to recover from domestic violence. In reality, focus should firstly be made on the mental health of the victim, and the recovery and re-building of self-esteem and mental image. Changing/mending the physical doesn’t help to heal the damage done inside a victim. Sarah also fails to ascertain whether Grace Brown has left her abusive partner or whether she has a safe place to live, she dives straight into “What I’d like to ask you Grace is, is whether you actually want to resurrect the old you in regards to the way that you looked, or would you like to re-invent somebody else and completely change the way that you look?”.
Sarah Burge, you are way off the mark if you think that statement is going to positively and actively improve the way Grace is feeling about herself right now. That statement insinuates that her looks weren’t and aren’t good enough, and that to heal herself she has to completely change physically. Of course Grace should have reconstructive surgery if she needs it, but removing the physical scars won’t heal the mental scarring; which will probably take years, and a qualified counsellor.
Sarah then goes on to explain a number of cosmetic procedures Grace could undergo to remove the damage caused by her husband. The wounds all look very fresh, and have clearly not yet had the chance and time to heal naturally; how can you even begin to suggest surgery when she might still be in a position to receive and acquire more physical injuries and mental harm?
At the 5 minute mark, there is a frankly bizarre re-enactment of a violent episode Grace endured. The strange thing is, is that the woman in the clip could pass as Grace’s identical twin, it may even be Grace, I can’t say for sure. I know myself I would hate to have to re-enact an act of violence committed against me, I could literally think of nothing more frightening and distressing. The man featured in the clip also bears an uncanny resemblance to Sarah Burge’s husband.
At the 6 minute mark Grace pulls something out of her pocket and shows it to Sarah, it’s a picture of her supposedly before the physical violence started. Bear in mind that Grace tells Sarah at the beginning of the video that she met her husband when she was 17, and that they have been married around 15 years. Grace describes several different violent episodes that appear to have occurred early on in their relationship. The video cuts to a still of the picture from Grace’s pocket (see below), that picture looks to me to be a professional headshot of Grace and a quite recent one at that. It all just doesn’t add up for me I’m afraid!
I know victims of domestic abuse can be very good at hiding their injuries, but the composition of the picture just doesn’t match with the Grace Brown sitting on the sofa and I don’t just mean the physical injuries don’t match. The aura of the Grace Brown in the picture is totally different to the Grace Brown on the sofa. If the whole video is a re-enactment of Grace’s story then this would make perfect sense, if an actor was playing Grace to protect her identity, then of course they would have to use a professional headshot, but there is no (as I mentioned previously) disclaimer in the video or its description.
My main issue with this video is that Sarah heavily emphasises the need for Grace to undergo cosmetic procedures to heal the damage caused by the domestic violence she’s been a victim of, when in actual fact she should be focusing on getting Grace out of the harmful, volatile and violent situation she is in. Not once does Sarah mention Grace’s mental wellbeing, nor does she suggest counselling to coincide the cosmetic surgery. Of course it is vital for Grace to be able to face the world feeling confident about her looks and not have any reminders of the physical damage caused by her husband; but how is she supposed to face the world with a beautiful face if she doesn’t feel beautiful on the inside? Domestic violence is just as much about the mental abuse as the physical and reinventing yourself physically won’t remove the bad memories and negative statements instilled in you by an abusive partner.
The next part of this article will hopefully shed some light as to why this video angered me so much.
At the beginning of my third year of university, I started seeing someone who lived in the same block of flats as me (we’ll call him Bob); we’d only been seeing each other for about a month. After a night out I told him he couldn’t come back to my flat because my flat mate was unwell; he took this information badly and started shouting insults loudly at me. He called me all the names under the sun, I told him I didn’t want to speak to him when he was like this and told him I would talk to him in the morning.
A friend who lived in a flat on the ground floor came up to my flat, she’d bought two of our male friends with her, they wanted to have a look around the flat. After a quick tour we settled in my room and began talking about the evening. A few minutes later someone started banging on the door to the flat, it was Bob. He was shouting loudly, demanding that I open the door and let him in, I told everyone to ignore him hoping he’d go away. The next thing I know, there was an almighty bang, and Bob had kicked the door in.
I went outside my room and asked him what he thought he was doing; he began storming around the flat, looking in every room. My flatmate was in our bathroom, Bob flung the door open and it hit her in the leg. He was absolutely raging, convinced I had strange men in the flat, and that I was cheating on him. By this point my guests had moved to the living room and decided to let us get on with it, I repeatedly asked Bob to leave because he was scaring me, but he wouldn’t. I tried to push him towards the door but he shoved me into the wall, after that my two male guests managed to get him to leave, and he then went upstairs and trashed his bedroom.
That night, my housemate and I had to put a chair against our door and then locked ourselves in my bedroom with various pieces of furniture against the door. We were petrified he was going to come back and do something else, we didn’t know what, but the fear in our minds conjured all manner of horrid things. I should have called the police, but it didn’t register in my mind that I’d been a victim of domestic violence until much later on.
I know my situation is mild, if not tepid in comparison to what Sarah Burge, Grace Brown and thousands of others have been through, but I just feel I should explain my story so you get a better understanding as to why Sarah’s video affected me so badly and why I feel the need to write this article. If I had reinvented myself physically, it wouldn’t have helped ease the anxiety I felt every time I heard Bob whistling as he past my flat on the way up to his. It wouldn’t have stopped me going over and over in my mind all the things I did and said that might have caused him to do what he did to me.
What did help me though was the constant love and support of my friends and family. They were there to tell me it wasn’t my fault, they were there to tell me I didn’t deserve it, and they gave me the strength to stand up and walk away. I know I was lucky to have such a strong network of people around me, many don’t. I just wish Sarah Burge was sending out a more positive message to those who look to her for advice; being a prominent figure in the media she has the power to influence people and make a change. The message she’s sending to victims may not necessarily be the right one!
I know its cliché, but beauty comes from within, and I think in today’s society people should really hold onto that more!
What did you think of the video? Do you agree?
Please note: I do not own the images used in this article. They are used purely for reference purposes only and I do not take credit for them.