It is October again, and another Domestic Violence Awareness Month has begun. Across the state there will be vigils, walks, runs, bake sales and balloon launches. There will be speak-outs and lunch-and-learns and “wear purple” days at work. In short, there will be dozens of ways for Mainers to take action this month.
Standing together, combining our voices, is powerful. Here are a few ways we help to end abuse and violence when we participate in an awareness event:
- We send a message to survivors. We know that one in four women and one in seven men will experience severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. And yet we often don’t know that our colleague, our friend or our family member is struggling. Joining in a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event sends a message of compassion. It can let the people around us know that we are supportive, and that they can turn to us for help if they need it
- We send a message to perpetrators. It is important that survivors know we support and believe them. It is equally important that we let abusive people know that their community does not and will not accept their behavior. Domestic Violence Awareness Month events give us the opportunity to join voices and publicly declare, “Not on our watch.” In order to end abuse, perpetrators must get this message, and we can each help send it.
- We take ownership. Most people in Maine are aware that domestic abuse is a big problem in our state. But too often, we believe that ending the violence is someone else’s work to do — that responsibility belongs with the police, advocates or government officials. Or we expect that it is the victim’s job to make it stop. In actuality, we will eliminate abuse when we change the ways that our culture allows and accepts it — and we all have a role to play in doing that. Coming out during October is one way that we can say, “This is our problem, and we will fix it.”
- We teach our children well. MCEDV prevention educators work in classrooms throughout Maine, providing students with tools to form healthy relationships. Those messages don’t belong in school alone. Bringing the whole family out to participate in Domestic Violence Awareness Month lets your children know that you, too, promote and prioritize safe, loving, peaceful and joyful relationships.
- We light a spark. The people working on the front lines every day — advocates, police officers, caseworkers and others — have jobs that are inspiring but that can also be challenging. It can be easy to feel discouraged and alone. Seeing the community come together is reinvigorating. Each year, people attend events and sign up to volunteer on the helpline, or to donate items to shelter, or to share their stories. Each year brings new energy. Each year, October feeds this fire and keeps it burning.
We can create a world in which abuse and violence no longer exist. But it will take all of us to do it. We hope that you will come out to a community event near you and be part of the solution.