What can I personally do to stop domestic violence?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a month that we use to recognize victims and survivors, and make a change in the culture of violence that perpetuates domestic violence.

One of the many lessons covid-19 has taught me is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. There is no guarantee I will be here tomorrow. I may not be around in one year, five years or 10 years to facilitate change, so I need to do it now. In the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, “I believe that if you see something you want to get done, you cannot give up, you cannot give in.”

So I would like to share my personal plan on what I am going to do to stop domestic violence.

1) I will teach myself to identify domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans regardless of race, gender or economic status. The term domestic violence describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

2) I will believe domestic violence survivors when they tell me about their assaults.

One in four women and nearly one in 10 men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. More than 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Every 73 seconds, someone in the United States is assaulted. Potentially 75 percent of the assaults go unreported. Often, the violence is not reported because the victim doesn’t think she/he will be believed or is ashamed. The most important thing I can do to help domestic violence survivors heal is to hear them and believe them.

No longer will I question “what did she do to make him mad” or think “why didn’t she leave?” I will believe domestic violence survivors.

3) I will no longer support or perpetuate violent stereotypes.

From a young age, male children are shown overly violent stereotypes while female children are shown stereotypes based on beauty and sexuality. Children are taught to associate their individual value and self-worth based on these violent and sexual stereotypes. Video games, music and advertising can be violent and overtly sexual. Eighty-two percent of all victims of sexual violence are under the age of 18 and are female. Females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. This is a direct result of women being sexualized. No longer will I support any product or company that promotes violence. I will not buy magazines that show violent or overtly sexual images on the cover. I will not buy music that condones violence and sex. I will think before I purchase things. The way I spend my money will show people what I support and what I do not support.

4) I will not condone violence of any kind.

I’m ashamed to admit that in the past, I sometimes thought people getting their butts kicked was funny. Social media posts showing people getting into senseless confrontations were amusing to me. It was easy to think “I want to see him get clobbered.” The apps took the reality of the situation away. It was easy to think those people getting punched were not real. But I’m allowing myself to think like that anymore. I am not going to condone violence. Violence is not right. Violence is never the right way to settle an argument.

5) I will support organizations that build stronger communities.

It’s easy to focus on myself. Me. My needs. But like any relationship, you can only get what you give. Stronger communities are less violent communities and overall safer communities. I’m challenging myself to be more engaged. I’m taking part in more peaceful protests. I’m talking with more community leaders. Hopeful Horizons. Habitat for Humanity. OneBlood. Friends of Caroline Hospice. The Old Village Association of Port Royal. Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort. The Lending Room. The Child Abuse Protection Association. The League of Women Voters. They are great organizations that need volunteers to function. Working together, they make our local community stronger. Stronger communities are less violent communities. I’m going to support them more, not less, starting now. I challenge you to do the same.

6) I will support organizations that engage young people socially and economically.

Hopeful Horizons facilitates two groups that teach teens violence prevention and self-worth and encourage healthy gender roles. Men of Strength (MOST) and Women Inspiring Strength & Empowerment (WISE) are active clubs in the local middle and high schools. Led by Hopeful Horizons staff, the MOST and WISE clubs are offered in the Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton County school districts. These programs are aimed at middle to high school-aged students (grades 7-12) and focus on understanding gender roles, self-esteem and bullying, and teach non-violent conflict resolution. By teaching young teens coping skills, violent conflicts can be stopped before they escalate. Other organizations, such as the Coastal Community Foundation that mentors non-traditional college students and offers scholarships to minorities, and the Beaufort Police Athletic League, are other examples of organizations that support young people and help them become the best versions of themselves.

Domestic violence has become a public health crisis. I’m going to help stop the domestic violence health crisis from escalating by implementing all of the above steps in my life. If you can think of other ways to make a difference, please share them below in the comments or email me at ewingr@hopefulhorizons.org.

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