I married him when I was 16. I don’t have a driver’s license. I don’t have a job. How can I make it alone? I’ll never get custody of the kids – and he is too violent to raise them without me.”
“He’s a good father. He’s even a good husband most of the time. I don’t want the relationship to end. I just want the hitting and the screaming to stop.”
“She calls me names all the time. I feel like dirt. I don’t know if it’s abuse, or not. Every time I try to break up with her, she threatens to kill herself. I guess it’s no big deal. I don’t want the guys at work to know. I just want it to stop.”
During October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, we all “just want it to stop.” Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound someone (Department of Justice Violence Against Women Office definition, as found at www.usdoj.gov/ovw/).
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where at least one in three women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. (U.N. Report on the Commission on the Status of Women, February 2000). Men also face violence in their relationships – be those relationships with a male or female partner. In Maine, law enforcement reported 11,703 domestic assaults in 2003 (the last year where composite data is available, to date.) This accounted for 45.8 percent of criminal assaults during that year.
There is some good news. We live in a time and place where we have more resources than ever through which to end relationship violence. Visual and print media are powerful tools through which to communicate our societal view of how relationships ought to be. Organizations like See Jane (www.seejane.org), a sub-group of dads and daughters (www.dadsanddaughters.org) provide information and activism opportunities for adults who wish to harness the media for the good of our next generation.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org) has numerous resources and referrals for people in need direct assistance with family violence or tools for so-cial activism. The National Organi-
zation for Men Against Sexism (www.nomas.org) offers men an opportunity to change the elements of their peer culture that punish them for treating women and girls as equals.
National Awareness Month is not only about prevention. We must also be aware as a community of the best practices for responding when a friend or loved one is in need of help. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (www.mcedv.org) is a wonderful resource for Mainers. The Web site points the way to all the member agencies in the state – as well as providing a community events calendar for those who wish to practice activism around this issue.
Anyone who wishes to get involved as an activist-volunteer may look at the MCEDV Web site for a link to their local domestic violence project (or check the phone book). Volunteers are often needed not only for hotline work but also for fund raising and for
general staffing of special events.
Leslie Joan Linder of Penobscot is the community educator for The Next Step Domestic Violence Project.