Imagine a world where boys and girls know that they are loved and how to love, gender doesn’t define how we treat each other, and everyone experiences healthy, loving and safe relationships. Imagine a world free from violence.
When we talk about primary prevention of intimate partner violence that’s what we’re talking about: a future where violence is replaced with love, respect and safety. As a domestic violence advocate, this hefty vision is hard to imagine. We get so caught up in responding and intervening when violence occurs that our attention often gets taken away from prevention.
But, domestic violence is preventable and everyone has a role to play in creating this world free from violence. We can stop this violence before it starts by promoting healthy relationships, shifting our culture, and investing in prevention efforts.
We must support and model healthy relationships and conflict resolution, as well as talk about healthy sexuality. Organizations like Start Strong Boston have even come up with an awesome Break Up Summit, where they encourage youth to “Face it, not Facebook it.” This education needs to start as early as Elementary School and continue throughout college. We need school curriculums and policies that work to address dating violence and promote healthy relationships.
We must change our society from one that tolerates violence against women to one that fosters respect and equality. We need to do more than acknowledge that violence against anyone is not okay, and make the concept of controlling your partner unthinkable.
What if the cool thing to do was to be the “upstander” in the situation? The guy who intervenes when he sees someone abusing their partner. What if it was cool to tell the guy who just cracked a rape joke that rape isn’t funny and only promotes violence? We need to create a culture where the expectation is that all people will be in and deserve healthy relationships, and anything else is unacceptable. There are many ways to do upstander intervention, check out Men Can Stop Rape for tools on upstander (or bystander) intervention.
Investing in Prevention
We can not only focus on intervention. We must think upstream and invest in prevention efforts and support local programs to do prevention work. Not only do we need the funding for prevention awareness and outreach, but also policy advocacy that supports healthy families and relationships.
To know that some states, such as Oregon, don’t allow domestic violence funding to be used for prevention is unbelievable. We know that prevention is cost-effective, and that only focusing on intervention doesn’t solve the problem of violence.
In DC, we’re committed to including prevention into our work. Last Friday we launched our new campaign, One City against Domestic Violence. We asked people to pledge to create One City free from domestic violence by taking a personal role in ensuring that our city is no longer a place where domestic violence exists. They pledged to:
- Support city-wide efforts to promote safe and healthy relationships and prevent domestic violence before it starts
- Support funding for domestic violence prevention and intervention services
- Lead by example
We all have an important part in helping to prevent and end domestic violence. Join the conversation, spark dialogue with your friends, family and co-workers throughout the month. Get involved at the local level, find your state coalition, share your voice, lend your hand or donate to end domestic violence.
Andrea Gleaves is the training and outreach specialist with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She volunteers as an advocate with Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment and the DC Rape Crisis Center. Follow her @DCCADV & @Andylou3.