The meetings with Vice President Joseph Biden and Jada Pinkett Smith took place on the stage front of America. At different times. During their speeches, the Vice President’s in Washington DC and Jada Pinkett Smith’s through recent social media posts and interviews, both inspired hope and expectation. The hope and the expectation is that we do more for victims of domestic or intimate partner violence.
- Use our voices, power, and influence to deliver the message that domestic violence against girls, woman, and all victims is unacceptable, intolerable, and must be stopped. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that intimate partner violence is a public health problem; one that’s preventable.
- Stop blaming victims. Domestic violence is about power and control; it’s about someone making a choice to cause harm/damage. The harm can be physical (hitting, slapping, spitting on, pulling hair, etc.), sexual (bullying and making someone engage in sexual activities they’re against, rape, etc.), emotional (belittling, tearing down someone’s self esteem), psychological (causing fear, terror, threatening to take the children, making threats to harm pets as a way of controlling their partner, etc.) and/or financially/economically based (withholding or controlling all the money, not allowing someone to work or go to school, etc.).
- Listen compassionately, without judgment, and allow victims time and space to share their stories. We need to recognize that trauma exists when people experience violence, and trauma responses and coping skills will vary. There is scientific proof on how our bodies respond, and fight, flight, or freeze is only a small part of it.
- Support or create environments and systems so that victims can leave safely if or when they choose. Instead of criticizing victims for staying, help strengthen and financially support the shelters and other programs and agencies that can assist with safety planning, safe space/beds, medical care, emotional support, legal and other assistance they may need.
- Be a part of the solution, not the problem. Learn more about domestic violence and the reasons why victims stay. Recognize that victims are at greater risk of being killed by their intimate partners when they try to leave. Bachman, R. and Salzman, L., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Violence Against Women: Estimates From the Redesigned Survey 1. (January 2000). Also, don't get hung up on gender. Domestic violence is a community problem. If agencies use the words "girls" or "women" when talking about victims, it's because of history (how girls and women have been viewed and treated for centuries) and statistics. (Example - The Department of Justice and so many others have been sharing facts, such as: Nationally, females are 84 percent of spouse abuse victims and 86 percent of victims at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend; 75 percent of the vast majority of these attacks are caused by men.)
In 2012, there were 41,494 incidents of domestic violence reported by the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Statistical Analysis Center. That number included 2,628 incidents of domestic violence reported in the City of St. Louis. While those numbers mean something, the numbers we don’t see, the thousands of cases never reported or prosecuted - the ones that occur on college campuses, in the homes of families, in the halls of many of our institutions… - those mean more.
Follow the Vice President's and Jada Pinkett Smith’s lead: We can do more; and we certainly can do better.