“It will take a community to end domestic violence.”

Anyone who has received correspondence from Family Violence Project over the past few years — whether it be our newsletter, an annual appeal request, or a thank-you card for a donation — knows that we try to include that phrase in everything we send out. In fact, it has become something of a mantra.

Sometimes, when news of another gruesome domestic-violence homicide comes to light, it gets harder and harder to believe that, despite the best intentions of survivors, advocates and community partners, we will ever see the end of this scourge.

The good news doesn’t usually make the front page: The victims who have made the transition to a life free from abuse, the ones who are working hard to assure that their children will not become future victims or abusers, the ones who’ve gone back to school and gotten jobs, the ones who are no longer afraid, the ones who have found their voices, and the ones who use those voices to speak out on behalf of victims everywhere.

Last month, however, in a government report made public in The New York Times, we received some very good news indeed:

From 1993 to 2010, the number of children living in households where another family member had been a victim of a nonfatal violent crime decreased by 68 percent, to 2.8 million from 8.7 million, according to the report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The crimes included domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and robbery.

In the article, written by Erica Goode, David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said that, in his view, the decreasing number of children exposed to violence was “breathtaking” and “big news.”

This breathtaking drop was attributed to several things, including an overall drop in violent crime over the last two decades, policing techniques and incarceration policies; but Finkelhor said large societal changes also were likely contributors, including the growth of prevention programs that increase awareness.

Another expert in the field, Janet Lauritsen, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri, cited the “increasing effectiveness of services available to victims and potential perpetrators of crimes.”

And, I would add, the number of community members who have committed themselves to the cause.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Let’s make this the month when we pledge to achieve zero tolerance for domestic violence in our communities. Let’s make peace in our homes a social norm, and domestic violence completely unacceptable.

Before Mothers Against Drunk Driving waged its enormously effective campaign, driving while intoxicated was not only accepted, but, in some circles (especially among teens and college students) was actually something to brag about.

That’s not the case any more. We have zero tolerance for drunken driving all over the country.

Remember before the mid-1980s, when children weren’t buckled into car seats? When you had to stop short and your arm flew in front of the kids in the front seat to keep them from flying through the windshield? Not anymore: It’s not only the social norm to buckle up kids; it’s illegal not to.

Let’s do the same thing with domestic violence. Yes, we have a long way to go — 2.8 million children exposed to violence at home is 2.8 million too many — but I know we can become a community with zero tolerance for abuse. To find out how to do your part, please visit our website, www.familyviolenceproject.org or call our office at 623-8637.

Deborah K. Shepherd is executive director of the Family Violence Project.

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