Communities Work Together to Combat Domestic Violence
by Alicia Wanek
Years ago, I was in attendance at a community meeting when the speaker passed out a lipstick tube to everyone in the audience. Thinking it was a free sample, I was surprised to see that when I turned the base, rather than finding a shocking pink or colorful coral shade, I wound up a folded piece of paper. On it were important things to consider for any woman in an abusive relationship and a list of items she should take with her when she made the decision to leave her abuser, along with phone numbers for the National Domestic Violence hotline and local agencies. The speaker instructed us to keep the tube to pass along to anyone we suspected might be in a relationship where they were being hurt. A woman could keep the tube in her purse without drawing any suspicion. I never really thought I would need it until I heard the statistics.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Considering that fact, it isn’t surprising that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Additionally, intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
It’s got to stop.
Thankfully, the North Texas area has a bevy of resources and non-profit agencies working together to put an end to it. These organizations are making tremendous strides in the fight against domestic violence. Through education, a crisis hotline, mental health treatment, emergency and transitional housing, counseling and legal advocacy, Hope’s Door in Plano is a local agency making a huge impact. In 2015 alone, they answered over 3000 hotline calls and provided counseling to over 700 women. Plano Police Department legal advisor and Hope’s Door board member Curtis Howard says, “We are working together with the non-profits in our local community, like Hope’s Door, in an effort to provide support for domestic violence victims and perpetrators and education for abusers in an effort to reduce the need for police response to domestic violence situations.”
An innovative approach is to bring the entire community together to address the issue. One program doing just that is the Collin County Council on Family Violence (CCCFV). Over 60 member-partners representing all areas of the community, including local and state government, law enforcement, education, faith and social services, health care, and legal and workplace organizations pool their resources to fight this issue together in their community. The group’s monthly meetings provide a forum for collaboration and information sharing across organizations that would not otherwise have the opportunity to connect. Bringing these organizations together, at a shared table, around a unified mission to respond to and eliminate domestic violence in Collin County, has been a powerful means to accomplish through partnership what could not be accomplished alone. The annual Facing Family Violence conference, held each October since 2002, has helped the group to educate the community and individuals who are focused on family violence in their professional work.
Domestic violence can affect anyone—in any neighborhood, of any ethnicity, of any age and any gender. Increased focus on the male victims of abuse—and thus their willingness to come forward to report it—has been significant. However, the number of women who are abused is still far greater. And the men in our community are stepping up to be a part of stopping the cycle of abuse.
Since 2013, the CCCFV has held the White Ribbon Rally, through which area men pledge to take a stand against violence. The rally kicks off a community-wide campaign encouraging men to become part of the fight. CCCFV Chair Hilary Valente says, “The goal is to raise up men who will stand up against domestic violence, holding other men accountable for abusive behaviors that may be witnessed.” Hope’s Door is getting young men—and women—involved in its new HYPE program (Hope’s Door Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) to assist the organization through services and education to “enhance the community’s capacity to respond.” And in Dallas, the Genesis Women’s Shelter is especially fortunate to have its HeROs (He Respects Others) on its side. Genesis offers emergency and transitional shelter to battered women and their children as well as counseling, legal services and other resources.
In 2010 a group of professional men realized that the statistics about domestic violence could represent their own daughter, their own mother, their own co-worker or their own neighbor. By 2015 over 300 men had decided they could make a difference and promote a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse. According to Elizabeth Corley, community outreach manager at Genesis, these men decided, “This won’t stop until men stand up in the community and do something about it.”
The HeROs are truly heroes to the agency and to everyone they serve. They put on events such as an annual golf tournament or this year’s “An Evening with Gentle Men” at the Crow Library on Nov. 2nd. They serve as mentors to the sons of battered women at Genesis’ transitional shelter to provide them with positive adult male role models. They go to the emergency shelter to grill dinner for residents EVERY Wednesday evening and have a speaker’s bureau to go out to local Rotary clubs, church groups and high school organizations to talk about healthy relationships.
Their Court Advocacy Group was established about a year ago. Because battered women frequently have to face their abuser in court alone, this group was established to simply provide moral support and a strong physical male presence for the women as they try to obtain protective orders, fight for custody of their children, or when they file assault charges and must appear in a court of law. Anywhere from two to twelve men will take a day off work yet still don their coat and tie just to be of support to women they may not even know. Elizabeth says, “We’ve seen first-hand the impact of this program. A battered woman can look to her right and see the man who attacked her and look to her left to see a group of men letting her know she’s cared for.” It’s been such an empowering and impactful program that it has caught the attention of the Dallas District Attorney’s office, and they will call, sometimes at the last-minute, to see if the group can provide someone for their client.
These women take comfort in knowing they are not alone. The hope is that ANY victim of domestic violence will know they are not alone either. In their own community, there are people who want to help and will support them as they make very brave decisions to leave a bad situation.
Fortunately, I still carry the “empty” lipstick tube in my purse—just in case. I only hope I haven’t already missed the opportunity to give it to someone who really needed it.
You can help in the fight against domestic violence by getting involved as a volunteer or attending events to support these local organizations.
• An Evening of Hope Gala
February 25, 2017
Collin County Council on Family Violence
Genesis Women’s Shelter
• Lecture Series at SMU’s Meadows Museum
November 9, 2016
• An Evening with Gentle Men: Everyday Gentlemen, Extraordinary HeROs
November 2, 2016