When it comes to domestic violence, weâ€™ve come a long way in the last 35 years.Â When La Casa de las Madres was founded as Californiaâ€™s first domestic violence shelter in 1976, just one such program existed nationwide. Â Contrast that with the nearly 2,000 identified domestic violence programs that existed nationally in 2011.Â Over these years, the Battered Womenâ€™s Movement ignited monumental changesâ€”from the eradication of the marital rape exemption laws to the creation of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Yet we still have a long way to go, and right nowâ€”amidst Domestic Violence Awareness Monthâ€”we face threats to roll back the clock on many of these changes.Â Marital rapes remain infrequently prosecuted; VAWA expired over a year ago and remains in congressional limbo; andâ€”representing another shock to progressâ€”just last week San Franciscoâ€™s suspended Sheriff was reinstated to the cityâ€™s law enforcement helm after admitting to and being convicted of a domestic violence crime.Â Itâ€™s clear that thereâ€™s still much work to be done to ensure that survivors are met with the support they need, batterers are held accountable, and all our children grow up experiencing safety and respect in relationships.
Community silence about domestic violence was historically the norm and bears some responsibility for its pervasiveness.Â When survivors hear that itâ€™s a private family matter, donâ€™t hear it being taken seriously, or simply donâ€™t hear their community talk about it at all, the message is that theyâ€™re alone in facing it, should keep quiet about it, or are to blame.Â Weâ€™ve all got to talk about it.Â In classrooms, in places of worship, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods and social groups.Â People must be informed of what it looks like so that weâ€™re all equipped to recognize it and speak out against it.
Toward this end, La Casaâ€™s free outreach and educational programming aims to redefine public perceptions of domestic violence, and to build community awareness and understanding of the realities of abuse.Â That itâ€™s not just physical.Â That it doesnâ€™t just happen to those who are meek, or because itâ€™s somehow desired or provoked.Â That it happens to men too, and in all kinds of relationships, among people from all walks of life.Â As a community weâ€™ve got to be having these conversations, and organizations like La Casa can help spark them through direct education.
Through web-based forumsâ€”like Facebook, Twitter, and agency websitesâ€”today we can also foster community dialogue more broadly and responsively, with alerts to community members about relevant news and information or actions they can take.Â Weâ€™re able to ask community members for their inputâ€”like when La Casa asked our community to help build a list of 35 Healthy Relationship Lessons to Live By, which weâ€™re now unveiling throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Every community member has a role to play in ending domestic violence.Â When weâ€™re concerned about how a loved one is being treated in a relationship, we can let that person know we care, and that there is help availableâ€”through local resources like La Casaâ€™s 24 hour crisis line (1-877-503-1850) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE).Â When we hear someone make light of abuse or perpetuate a falsehoodâ€”like that abuse only happens in married adult couplesâ€”we can speak the truth.Â And we can talk with our children about their rights within relationships, warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, and qualities to look for in a partner, teaching them that no one deserves to be hurt by someone they love.
We can start today with one small stepâ€”share this video with a friend and ask them to do the same. Through the simple act of sharing it and starting a discussion, we can change the conversation, change our community, and make a difference.
This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence blog carnival on issues of violence in all forms. We invite you to join the dialogue! VisitÂ the blog carnival hereÂ and post your comment, share your story on your blog or website, and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.
 National Network to End Domestic Violence.Â 2011 Domestic Violence Counts: A 24-Hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services, National Summary.Â Available at http://nnedv.org/docs/Census/DVCounts2011/DVCounts11_NatlSummary_BW.pdf.