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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The Little Black Dress Society: Because Abuse is Never in Fashion

Every woman needs a few things in her life: Friends. A support network. A fantastic little black dress.

And loved ones who always, always treat her with love and respect.

But unfortunately, not all women are so lucky, particularly when it comes to the last item on the list. And that’s what Amanda Graybill has set out to change.

Through her organization, the Little Black Dress Society, Amanda brings together women (wearing little black dresses, of course!) in small groups across the country to connect, build lasting friendships, and work together to end domestic violence, an issue that still affects one in three women worldwide.

We sat down with Amanda to learn more about abuse, her heartbreaking personal drive behind LBD’s mission, and her vision for a future where every woman is loved, respected, and safe.

What sparked your desire to start the Little Black Dress Society?

When I was 4 years old, I received my first little black dress as a gift from my friend’s mother.

And this dress came at a critical time in my life—when my world was turned upside-down. After losing his job, my father became an alcoholic. He became verbally and emotionally abusive in our home. It was because of this that I grew up believing that abuse was the norm, and I began to be attracted to abusive males.

But during that time, it was this dress that made me feel special; I could have worn it every day. I want women to feel as special as I did wearing mine. Any woman that has gone through any abuse loses her self-esteem and self-respect. It is important that we help her see her significance. My desire is for them to know that they are worthy of love and respect; that they are beautiful.

The little black dress is a classic fashion icon that I hope will bring into light the subject of abuse that people tend to shy away from. But it is also my belief that it isn’t really about the dress, it’s about the woman wearing it!

Can you tell us a little about the different forms of abuse?

Physical abuse is the form that comes to the minds of people first. Many don’t ever bother to look beyond it. However there are many other forms: Sexual abuse, verbal abuse (like name calling, demeaning, or telling someone she is worthless), and emotional/psychological abuse. This includes controlling behavior such as threatening someone, or limiting what she can wear or who she can talk to or be friends with.

It’s said that can be difficult for a woman to recognize when she’s in abusive relationships. Why? Do you think that’s true?

Yes, definitely, because it has become her idea of normal. She really loves the person who is abusing her, and she hopes for him to change. She keeps thinking that the situation is going to get better.

Our organization reaches out to women from all walks of life providing a sort of support group within our chapters. They do not have to announce that they are abused, but they can benefit from the group by opting to receive information via email, Facebook, and our website. Just getting information out there about what an abusive relationship looks like has helped many a woman take the first steps toward getting away from her abuser.

What should someone do if she is in an abusive relationship?

Get out. But in order to do that, you need to have a plan of action. Soon, we will be posting an “escape plan” outline on our website to help women create a plan. We also will be printing brochures. All too often I hear women will say, “If I only got out, then I would not be here today.”

What should someone do if he or she has a friend in an abusive relationship?

Be a good listener. Encourage her, and help build up her self-esteem. And help her outline a plan and help find a safe place for her.

Finally, how can women get involved in spreading awareness for the cause?

First, don’t ever shy away from the topic! Be an educator about abuse, and share what you know with loved ones and those you care about.

You can also support organizations like LBD. Become a sponsor by volunteering or donating to shelters and other organizations that support the cause.

And finally, you can attend networking and community involvement events.

What's next for the Little Black Dress Society?

Our current focus is building up the number of chapters nationwide over the next 3-5 years, and eventually globally. There is no societal or economic differentiation—abuse affects everyone. And the more societies that are formed, the greater the impact.

Our societies adopt local shelters, and they become a part of the lives of the women coming into the shelters. Those women can then grow to feel empowered, and once they have their self-esteem back, they can in turn help other women and “pay it forward.”

In addition to expanding nationally, we are getting ready to launch in Uganda. I feel that there is an immense need in areas like this because of the lack of respect of women in the society. In the next couple years, I would love to be able to travel and host speaking engagements for the women in Uganda personally. I am currently considering the idea of getting people in the U.S. to sponsor women in Uganda. This would include writing correspondence, perhaps providing some financial assistance, but most importantly touching their lives and giving them an outlet for sharing with other women, which brings healing.

In addition to launching this brilliant organization, Amanda has written the moving short story, "The Little Black Dress," that shares the story of a little girl and her most prized possession. To learn more about Amanda or the Little Black Dress Society and how to help, visit or follow her on Facebook.