You Can Raise Awareness re: Domestic Violence

Every 9 seconds (approximately the time it will take you to finish reading this sentence), a woman in the United States is beaten. Worldwide, the statistic narrows to a third of that—every 3 seconds. There is no standard profile for victims of domestic violence—it affects people of every race, gender, and economic background.

This week, Rita Bailey, Co-Chair of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Partnership Task Force in Darien, CT joined me to discuss how to help raise awareness of domestic violence.

So why aren’t domestic violence awareness efforts more successful? What’s hindering us as a society from really rallying behind this cause? As one listener pointed out, everyone knows that the pink ribbon is the symbol of breast cancer awareness, but how many people know that the purple ribbon is the domestic violence awareness symbol?

According to Ms. Bailey, there are many reasons. One is that we live in a world desensitized to violence, and where violence is put forth as a legitimate problem-solving method. Another huge barrier to domestic violence awareness efforts is the stigma attached to it. Many people view domestic violence as a private, rather than public concern, and blame the woman for staying in the abusive cycle, when the reality is far more complicated. A woman subjected to abuse has her reasons for staying: from financial dependence, to immigration status to a desire to protect her children.

Another factor inhibiting domestic violence awareness efforts is that we as a society lack the necessary vocabulary to appropriately tackle the problem. Consider the language we use in describing those affected by breast cancer, for instance. We say ‘survivor’ instead of ‘victim’. The word survivor carries an inherent positive spin—this is someone who has faced difficulty and triumphed, whereas the word ‘victim’ implies negativity—someone who is passive, who has bad things happen to them.

So what should you do if you witness domestic violence? “Don’t be a bystander,” Ms. Bailey urges. There are a number of actions you can take to stop the violence. The most effective technique, Ms. Bailey suggests, is distraction. This can be as simple as approaching the couple and asking for directions, or saying “your car is being towed.” If you are in a public venue, such as a restaurant or bar, delegate to figures of authority and law enforcement, such as a manager, bouncer, or police officer.

Should you call the police? Ms. Bailey warns that this can be a tricky situation, as calling the police can incite more violence from the abuser. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to report the abuser rests with the abused, so ask the victim if she would like you to call the police. Always address the person being abused, rather than the abuser, with your eye contact and words.
On a grassroots level, domestic violence awareness efforts must start in our homes and schools. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to teach young children what types of actions and words are appropriate and what has the potential to hurt others, physically or emotionally.

How can you create a task force in your local community? Organization is key and having a strong leader and a forum to discuss programs, statistics, and initiatives is essential. The media and police can be very supportive. Also, reach out to your local town representatives. The Darien, CT, Domestic Violence and Abuse Partnership Task Force originated in 2008, with a mission of creating awareness about domestic violence through educational programs and special initiatives, and draws its members from collaboration with the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, the YWCA, the police department’s Special Victims Unit, and other community organizations.

Ms. Bailey generously offers her guidance and support for those looking to build grassroots efforts to raise domestic violence awareness. If you are thinking about starting a task force in your community, you can contact her at

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