Even though Massachusetts currently faces one important public health crisis that deserves action, October is an important reminder that another oft-unnoticed epidemic is affecting people across the Commonwealth, country and world. According to a report released by Jane Doe Inc. earlier this month, 334 people in Massachusetts lost their lives over the last decade as a result of domestic violence.
In an effort mobilize the public around an issue affecting nearly 1 in 3 women across the United States, survivors and advocates organize a variety of events and campaigns during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Here are four ways you can take action towards preventing intimate partner violence:
Be an active bystander: One of the major barriers to preventing domestic violence is the perception that intimate partner violence is a private issue that should be resolved in the home rather than a situation in which bystanders can take action. There are several great programs for people of all ages to learn the warning signs and the best ways to intervene when witnessing domestic abuse. The Green Dot program is an example, gaining popularity on college campuses across the country by teaching students to recognize potentially violent situations and then intervening—whether that be directly, creating a distraction, or delegating to an authority figure such as the police. Northeastern University’s Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) is another great program that trains participants through facilitated discussions about how people might react to different scenarios involving gender-based violence.
Show your support: A variety of campaigns take place during October in which people can express their support for survivors of domestic violence and pledge to not condone violence against women in any form. Wearing a purple ribbon or participating in Purple Tie Tuesday is an opportunity to show solidarity and commitment toward preventing domestic violence through the unifying color for the month. Many communities also organize Clothesline Projects. This program, originating 25 years ago on Cape Cod, is a platform for survivors of gender-based violence as they voice their stories on shirts to hang on clotheslines in a public display that educates observers viewing the project. In Massachusetts, men are invited to make a difference by joining Jane Doe Inc.’s White Ribbon Day Campaign, which is a call to action among men and boys to become part of the solution in ending violence against women.
Volunteer: There are several volunteer opportunities available at domestic violence agencies and support services for people with varying experiences and backgrounds. For example, RESPOND, Inc. in Somerville, MA welcomes volunteers who can help with tasks ranging from painting and carpentry, to helping its annual gala and other fundraising events, to leveraging professional expertise (such as marketing, IT or legal experience) for the organization.
Give: As discussed during our latest SM& Presents panel, 75 percent of millennials responding to a recent report indicated that they made a financial gift to at least one nonprofit organization in the last year. No matter the amount, financial contributions can make a positive difference for both local and national domestic violence agencies by helping them to provide a variety of services including emergency housing, counseling, legal support and educational outreach. In addition to making a financial gift, you might also consider donating used cell phones which can then be distributed to survivors of abuse by domestic violence agencies.
The recent partnership between Attorney General Maura Healey and Robert Kraft to educate teens about relationship violence is a positive indication that we are in the midst of a cultural shift toward addressing an issue that has long been considered a public health epidemic. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an important reminder to all of us to continue the momentum of awareness and action by advocating for the prevention of domestic violence in October—and beyond.