People are afraid to talk about domestic violence. That's what gives it such power... it's our silence.
- Genelle Taylor Kumpe, Executive Director of Marjaree Mason Center
Reports tell us that one in three women and one in four men experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Tragically, this already high incidence doesn't even paint the whole picture. Abuse extends beyond the physical. It can be emotional, spiritual or financial -- and it often goes unreported, concealed by shame and fear.
When a survivor is ready to seek help, a new set of obstacles arises: How will they support themselves financially? What will happen with family members? And, most immediate, how will they remove themselves safely from the situation?
Recently, I wrote about Meathead Movers, a California-based moving company that provides free moving services to victims of domestic violence. Inspired by the company-wide commitment to helping those in dangerous situations at home, I wanted to help other businesses follow suit by sharing the steps involved. In the article, I explained the four main ways Meathead Movers is tackling the issue:
- Providing emergency services to victims of domestic violence
- Donating funds, to be used at the discretion of partner domestic violence shelters
- Educating and empowering their employees
- Leveraging press and events to urge other businesses to pledge their support
What I didn't share was how every single one of us can be an active participant in addressing -- and even ending -- domestic violence. The insight came after speaking with Genelle Taylor Kumpe, Executive Director of Marjaree Mason Center, a partner to Meathead Movers. Located in the Central Valley of California, the Center provides shelter and support to victims of domestic violence while working to stop the cycle of abuse through education and advocacy.
In talking to her, I came to understand that silence is one of the greatest contributors to the epidemic of domestic violence. Not only is it a barrier to getting help, it actually perpetuates the cycle in future generations. You see, children of domestic violence are two to three times more likely to repeat the very same cycle in adulthood. As Genelle explains it, "So many kids in our schools are suffering from abuse at home. And when you're growing up, you're a product of your environment, so if you're around domestic violence, you start to think it's normal, it's just what happens to everyone."
So how do we combat silence? We speak up.
- We teach our children about healthy relationships, and set examples we would want them to emulate
- We learn to recognize the signs and stages of abuse
- We listen and provide support when someone makes the decision to confide
- We spread the word about domestic violence resources, and celebrate the strength of survivors
And if we need more ideas, we ask advocates like Genelle:
It's only when we start talking about it, launching conversations within schools, households, peer groups, and workplaces, that we help people to realize things can be different... We all need to spend more time talking about what constitutes a healthy relationship. Schools can implement anti-violence curriculum and counseling programs. Employers can educate their employees and put support mechanisms in place. And everyone, above all, can refrain from blaming the victim. There are so many times people ask why a survivor stays. Don't. It's never their fault. Not ever.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence:
Establish a Safety Plan:
- Identify the fastest, safest path out of the house, steering clear of weapons (the kitchen)
- Establish everyday routines that require going outside (taking out the trash, walking the dog, or going to the store)
- Compile a list of emergency phone numbers (police, hotlines, the local shelter, and any trusted family or friends)
- Establish a code word/phrase that can be used if in need of help
- Teach children how to dial 911
- Hide a bag of essentials (money, extra car keys, medication, birth certificates, social security cards, medical cards, etc.)