Five Simple Actions to Counteract Violence Against Women
Thursday, October 13th, 2016
By: Pierre Berastaín, Assistant Director of Innovation and Engagement, Casa de Esperanza
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to remember the many victims and survivors who have experienced domestic violence and to raise awareness about a social ill that affects 1 in 3 women. In the face of a problem of such epidemic proportions, it can become overwhelming to think of ways that we can help ameliorate a problem like domestic violence. Yet, through small actions, we all can help make strides in creating a society free of violence. Below are five simple actions you can take this month to make a difference:
1. Don’t make sexist jokes or statements. We all know those kinds of jokes: implications about “blonde moments,” women’s supposed place in society, or lewd comments about women’s bodies. Sexist jokes or statements promote a narrative that women are lesser than men, that their abilities are to be questioned, or that their value is solely sexual. When those jokes fall on children’s ears or when we promote stereotypes among our friends, we begin to build the bedrock upon which violence can find validation—thoughts turn into words, and words turn into action. A young boy might hear that women are bad drivers and eventually grow to believe it, preach it, and treat women disrespectfully because of it. I challenge you to try not to make sexist jokes throughout October, and hopefully beyond. Equally as important, I ask you to call out sexist jokes. Here are some things you can do:
- Shake your head, smile, and give a disapproving look.
- Just say “no” and change the conversation by asking, “By the way, how’s your mom?”
- Say something like, “Did you just make a sexist joke during domestic violence awareness month?” Yes, people will give you a weird look, but at least you called it out.
- Don’t ever allow for excuses like, “It’s just locker room talk” when someone makes misogynistic statements or comments about sexual assault.
Calling out sexist jokes, of course, requires a degree of bravery. After all, sexist jokes have become normalized thanks to their ubiquitous nature and the notion that it is socially acceptable to make them. If you hear someone call out a sexist joke, agree with that person and say that you also think the joke is inappropriate.
2. Ask your HR representative about your company’s domestic violence policies. Domestic violence costs the U.S. economy approximately $8.3 billion dollars annually, both in medical costs and lost productivity. Employees often require a little extra help to deal with the damaging effects of domestic violence, from time off to additional resources. Imagine the difference that we could make if every company had a strong domestic violence HR policy. Employers would offer accommodations and create a culture in which domestic violence is not a taboo subject by encouraging their employees to seek help. If your company does not have a strong HR policy, encourage them to develop one. A sample HR policy from the New York State’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence can be found here.
3. Talk with your children and youth in your life. I’m not saying talk with them about domestic violence (I realize it can be a daunting subject), but you can talk with them about what healthy relationships look like. You can talk with them about meaningful communication with others, self-esteem and self-awareness, mutual respect, and the value of non-violent interactions. Children and youth listen to adults, and they look up to us. If you want tips on how to have a conversation, visit the We Say NO MÁS website, a bilingual resource that provides helpful tips for parents to talk with children about these issues. The website is expanding significantly in the next couple of months, so make sure to sign up for the newsletter to receive material as it becomes available.
4. Go a step further: model healthy relationships. As already mentioned, children listen to adults, but more importantly, children imitate us. They learn quickly from our actions, so the best way to teach them about healthy relationships is to model what that looks like. If you are upset with someone, for example, you can mutually decide to walk away and talk about the issue later. Model what a non-combative conversation looks like, and show that conflict can be resolved without shouting or violence. Go a step further and involve your child in doing something nice for your partner.
5. Donate. Domestic violence advocates earn a median income of $30,180 annually. These are front line staff who respond to 24/7 hotline calls, help victims navigate finding jobs and housing, accompany victims to court and health care facilities, interpret for them and provide childcare for children staying in shelter. In addition, shelters already operate at over-capacity and too often are unable to meet victims’ needs. According to the 2015 Domestic Violence Counts report, in one day alone, “Victims made more than 12,000 requests for services— including emergency shelter, housing, transportation, childcare, legal representation, and more—that could not be provided because programs did not have the resources to provide these services.” That was on one day alone. Service providers answered a total of 21,332 calls in one day, averaging 14 answered calls every minute. How many calls went unanswered? As someone who works in the domestic violence field, I can attest that even five dollars helps immensely, so consider donating to a local shelter. Of course, I am biased to Casa de Esperanza because I work there, but you can find a number of organizations in your area at https://www.domesticshelters.org