In my current job as the public relations and marketing coordinator for Old Dominion University Women’s Center, I plan programs educating students about various issues related to gender and women’s rights. One of those issues is domestic violence. When I was an undergrad in the ODU Women’s Studies program, I interned at a local domestic violence shelter. I saw up close the cycle of violence that I had learned about in my Violence Against Women class. I also saw the value in having those shelters available for women trying to escape violent partners. The life lessons I learned from those experiences are what keep me moving forward in my work for improving how the world treats women.
I also coordinate the Women’s Center’s volunteer program, giving students opportunities to work on educational programming and social norms campaigns. This program empowers them to take opportunities in everyday situations where they can speak up and make a difference. I can only hope that with more people working on issues like domestic violence, we will move closer to gender equality and ending violence against women.
National statistics report that one in four women will be victims of domestic violence. Many of us probably know someone who is or was in an abusive relationship. Here are a few tips for how you can help a friend and bring an end to domestic violence.
1. Educate Yourself
Taking the time to learn about the various types of violence experienced by women will help you recognize violence if it happens to you or someone close to you. A good place to start is the resources available through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance: www.vsdvalliance.org or the National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.thehotline.org.
2. Name the Behavior
Do not be afraid to call the behavior what it actually is—violence. Not all violent behavior is physical. It can also be emotional, verbal, or financial. For help identifying healthy vs. unhealthy relationship behaviors, check out The Red Flag Campaign: www.theredflagcampaign.org.
3. Be There for Your Friends
Pay attention to the relationships of those close to you. Let those close to you know that you are available if they need you. Help them to identify the abusive behaviors and provide them with local resources for assistance. If your friend refuses help, whether she’s in denial that the relationship is abusive, so emotional battered that she thinks she’s not going to find anyone better, or if she’s too scared to try to leave, consult local domestic violence advocate agencies for guidance on how to safely help your friend. Locally we have YWCA South Hampton Roads (226-9922), Samaritan House (430-2120), Transitions Family Violence Service (722-2261), Genieve Shelter (1-800-969-4673) and H.E.R. Shelter (485-3384)
4. Examine Yourself
Have the courage to look inward and examine your own behaviors, attitudes, and biases regarding violence against women.
5. Teach Your Children
From an early age, teach your children how to solve problems and express anger without harming others. Teach your children that violence in ALL relationships is unacceptable. This is something I focus on while raising my two sons. Visit my blog for more insights: www.grrrlwithboys.blogspot.com.
6. Set an Example
Show the young people in your life, through words and actions, how to treat women with fairness, equality, and respect.
7. Stop Blaming Women
Women are NOT to blame for violence committed against them. Blaming women only allows violence to continue. We should instead be blaming the person committing the violence.
8. Publicly Commit
Do not laugh the next time someone tells a joke that degrades or exploits women. Not going along with the joke sends the message that degrading and exploiting women is unacceptable.
9. Get Involved
Join an organization dedicated to preventing violence against women. Become an activist! Contact the domestic violence advocates listed in #3 to find out how you can volunteer.
10. Reach Out. Take Action Against Violence!
Stand up and take action when you witness violence or suspect violence is taking place. Get help for yourself if you use violence to control someone in your life. (www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/can-i-stop-being-abusive) You can help stop violence against women!
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Old Dominion University Women’s Studies Department and how you can support their students, attend the annual Friends of Women’s Studies Dinner on February 25, 2015 at 6 p.m. at ODU’s Webb Center. The guest speaker will be author and activist against violence against women Andrea Smith. Tickets may be purchased online at http://al.odu.edu/womens_studies/resources/friends.shtml