Today’s topic is an uncomfortable one for many people. But this issue affects more than 10 million women and men across the country. (Content Warning: DV, Spoilers)
The topic is domestic violence.
Now why is an anime nerd emailing about domestic violence? It certainly doesn’t seem like a topic related to anime. Sure, there are plenty of anime that deal with disfunctional families and dark situations – Fruits Basket, Elfen Lied, Clannad After Story, even cute shows like Kotaro Lives Alone. But even though there are anime with domestic violence in them, why talk about it in my anime nerd newsletter?
Well, because our conventions – and my role as President – is about more than just the love of anime. It is about the love of our community. Community is an equally large part of our events. And caring for members of our community is near and dear to my heart.
What are some of the anime that touch on topics of domestic violence, and what do they talk about?
Well, there’s Elfen Lied, which explores the effects of physical and psychological abuse on Lucy, the main character, who ends up developing a murderous split personality due to her traumatic childhood. Or Clannad After Story, which while primarily known for its tear-jerking narrative, also subtly delves into family dynamics and domestic abuse, particularly in the arc involving Tomoya and his father. In March Comes in like a Lion (3-gatsu no Lion), Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old professional shogi player, lives alone due to a strained relationship with his foster family, the Kawamotos. The eldest Kawamoto sister frequently belittles and bullies Rei, contributing to his depression.
The main character of Fruits Basket, Tohru Honda, stumbles upon the Sohma family who suffer from a curse that transforms them into zodiac animals when they are weak or hugged by the opposite sex. However, the curse is also a metaphor for the physical and emotional abuse they endure, especially from the family head, Akito. Kyo, the cat zodiac, suffers from intense isolation and emotional abuse, whereas Yuki, the rat, endures psychological manipulation. And in “Erased”, the character Kayo Hinazuki suffers from neglect and physical abuse at the hands of her mother.
The presence of domestic violence as a recurring theme in anime sheds light on the significance and prevalence of the issue. These anime series navigate the sensitive topic of domestic violence with empathy and nuance, inviting us to reflect on its prevalence and the transformative power of compassion and support.
Domestic violence definitely affects anime fans – many of us have witnessed it firsthand, and experienced our own familial difficulties throughout our lives. Often anime is a beautiful escape from the real world for many young anime fans. And the fact that anime needs to be an escape from the real world – rather than just a fun thing to enjoy on its own – is kinda tough for us all.
Education is our first step. We begin by creating spaces in our conventions and online platforms for discussions around domestic violence, its signs, and its impacts. We already have numerous panels at our events highlighting important topics. It’s important that we make our conventions an environment where people feel safe to share their experiences and ask for help if needed.
Furthermore, anime itself can be a tool for education. By highlighting shows that accurately portray these issues, we can promote understanding and empathy. Anime series like “Erased” and “March Comes in Like a Lion” delve into themes of trauma, healing, and the importance of support networks in overcoming the effects of domestic violence.
Equality, in every sense, is a cornerstone of combating domestic violence. When we talk about equal rights and equal pay, we are addressing a fundamental power imbalance that often underpins domestic violence. There’s a link between financial independence and the ability to leave abusive relationships. In fact, a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research highlighted that closing the wage gap would reduce the number of women living in poverty by more than half and significantly decrease their vulnerability to domestic violence. That’s why I am proud to note that many of the top and highest paid staff of AnimeCon.org are women.
Also, it’s important to underscore that individuals with disabilities are disproportionately affected by domestic violence. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence, with the risk doubling for those with mental health conditions. This heartbreaking reality is often overlooked, adding another layer of invisibility to an already underrepresented group. Our conventions already work hard to accomodate individuals with disabilities, with our staff providing early accessible access to major events, and our events hosting many panels related to disabilities and accomodations.
For women, reproductive freedom plays a vital role. Control over one’s reproductive health can be a critical factor in the dynamics of abusive relationships. Women have experienced men sabotaging birth control or poking holes in contraceptive devices, in order to keep them, in their view, controllable. Men have experienced similar things, but men don’t have the risk of getting pregnant themselves and upending their entire lives. These examples are a sobering reminder of why comprehensive sexual education and access to contraceptives are essential.
Finally, let’s talk about how we can support charities. Organizations like The National Domestic Violence Hotline, RAINN, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, are doing exceptional work, providing resources, and aiding victims. We often work to organize charity auctions at our events, and promote their initiatives through our newsletter and social media platforms.
I am proud to be a regular donor to our local charity, Family Resources, which provides everything from domestic violence services to counseling to even other family services like adoption and foster care. I’m so glad there are such worthy organizations in my local community, and I hope yours has one too.
Let’s remember that our anime community is not just about shared interests, but shared care for one another. Our love for anime can be a vehicle for change, creating a safe and supportive space for all fans. Let’s use our collective strength to educate, advocate, and make a difference in the fight against domestic violence.