It will take every one of us to end domestic violence, and that’s why it’s so important for you to participate in October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
As Melody Fitch, director of the Family Violence Project, says, “Become aware. Connect. Take Action. Talk about abuse. Come out as an activist. Become an up-stander.” And yes, “write a check.”
Nikki Currier, an advocate at the Family Violence Project, created Joe, The Up-stander, because he witnesses domestic violence and chooses to help those in need. The project’s fall newsletter reports that, “Joe Up-stander is a simple concept to spread the message that everyone can help and it doesn’t take money, a large time commitment or self-endangerment. Joe Up-stander is a call to everyone to help make this world safer for themselves or others. That would include you.”
“We are not at the end of the existence of domestic violence and abuse in society; we are in the depths and trying to come to terms with it. We are in deep, and it is ugly and tragic and frightening,” Fitch said in the newsletter. Then she related this story (which might motivate you to become an Up-stander):
“I spoke with an anonymous woman recently who was married for decades to a man who abused her. He drew their children into the abuse in ways that taught them to see their mother as the problem and the father as the victim. When Anonymous divorced her first husband, after years of living shackled to fear and hopelessness, she fell gratefully into the arms of the first man who showed her kindness.
“When her adult children pointed to her betrayal and weakness, her ex-husband gloated in triumph. When her new partner began to torture her mentally and emotionally, Anonymous found a new prison, with walls created of shame. Locked inside, she could not turn to her children. She had no friends, and at 60 years of age, her parents were gone. She called a 24-hour hotline. It was all she had: anonymity and one call.
“During our conversation, her thoughts took many turns trying to keep pace with fractured emotions, spilling into confusion and indecisiveness. Where would she go? How could she begin, and what did it matter? Breathe, I told her. Let’s first just breathe. We did this for a few moments, together.
“And as she calmed, she wept. Her tears made a space for clarity. Not a large space and more for a moment than for a whole story. But it was enough to recognize she was in deep and simultaneously at the beginning of a long journey.
“We are not at the end. Anonymous is not at the end. We are in deep, and the journey is a long one. Collectively, we breathe, and we join together in shared responsibility and action.”
I asked Janet Mills, Maine’s attorney general, what we could do to reduce domestic violence. “There is no magic bullet (so to speak), but access to mental health services comes to mind,” she said. “The Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel keeps noting the connection between suicidal ideation and domestic violence, people who have cried out for help in some way or other and had no medical insurance, got no help, felt helpless and worthless and turned to violence. Fundamentally, domestic violence is about control. Modeling and teaching healthy relationships (and countering what so many kids see in the home) is key.”
If you are ready to act, you can do so in a variety of ways. Dine at one of the local restaurants on the October dates those places donate a portion of their proceeds to the Family Violence Project. The list of restaurants and dates are on the project’s website, www.familyviolenceproject.org, or you can call the Family Violence Project for information at 623-3569.
You can attend the day of training, called Hearts and Hands, “training for building partnerships with faith leaders to support rural victims of sexual and domestic violence.” And of course, you can make a donation to the Family Violence Project.
If you need inspiration, stop by Hallowell’s Harlow Gallery in October to see its Transforming Violence art work, and attend one of its special events, beginning with an opening reception, “It Takes A Community” from 5-8 p.m. Friday.
You can be an Up-stander. I know you can.