We all have a part to play in ending domestic abuse and violence.
Here are a few ideas for how you can take action.
Advocate – Contact your representatives and advocate for public policies that benefit survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. This includes learning about how domestic abuse and violence intersects with other policy issues, such as access to health care, reproductive freedom, economic justice and racial justice. As we say in our Philosophy Statement, “All of our struggles against oppression are related.” To create a world free from domestic abuse and violence, we must address the wide range of ways in which control over the human and civil rights of others are maintained in our society.
Be prepared – Does your workplace have a domestic violence policy in place? Does your children’s school have a dating violence policy? If not, initiate one. An effective policy, supported by training on how to implement it, will establish guidelines for a response to a problem before one arises, helping make schools and places of employment safer for everyone. Your local Domestic Violence Resource Center can help.
Change our culture – Abuse thrives in a society that encourages the oppression of some by others. So confront sexism, racism, heterosexism and the other “isms” that we all encounter daily. Become media savvy, and speak up when you see popular culture or people you know promoting values that condone abuse and violence. Consider your own belief system, and how it might contribute to a world in which some people believe they have the right to dominate others. If you are a man or are male-identified, encourage other men to get involved in ending gender-based violence.
Make your values visible – Throughout the year, you will find opportunities in your community to shine a spotlight on domestic abuse and violence. Attend a vigil, walk a 5K, write a letter to the editor, or Take Back the Night. By showing up, you send the signal that your community will not condone abuse. Connect via social media; find out what is happening in your local area, and share that news with your followers. Public displays of support and compassion can provide hope for people living through abuse, and send a message of accountability to people who choose to use abusive behaviors.
Volunteer – Contact your local Domestic Violence Resource Center and ask them about volunteer opportunities. They have many things that they need help with, ranging from long-term commitments to one-time events. We could not do what we do without the generosity of hundreds of volunteers across Maine.
Intervene – Too often, after a domestic violence homicide we hear that the people around the couple knew that something was not right, but they didn’t know how or if to interfere in “private family affairs.” If you notice someone indicating, with their words or their actions, that they believe they have the right to control their partner, talk with them. Do what you can safely do to interrupt the system of beliefs that fuels abuse. Find a safe and private time, and check in with their partner. Be a consistent support, and offer the number to the local Domestic Violence Resource Center. If you are not sure how to approach the situation, you can call the helpline yourself, and an advocate can help you figure out how you can be helpful.
Abuse is not a private matter. We all have a responsibility to take action. By working together, we can end domestic abuse and violence for good, and create a world rooted in equity, respect, caring and joy.