Have a Conversation about Domestic Violence
by Rebecca Hieonymi
Domestic Violence is everywhere, affecting millions of people across the United States. Through action and education, we can end this epidemic. One way to do your part is to simply start a conversation with your loved ones about domestic violence. Here are 10 tips for having an informed conversation about domestic violence.
Never blame the victim: Abuse is never the victim’s fault, but as a society we continue to place blame on victims. We should believe, support, and trust survivors instead of second guessing their experience. Let’s place the responsibility where it rightfully belongs, on the abusers.
Hold offenders accountable: If it is safe to do so, this can be anything from calling the offender out on their abusive actions or imposing social consequences like telling them they’re not welcome at family dinner until their behavior stops. Community accountability can make a significant impact so we must stop excusing abusive behavior. Healthy relationships are rooted in equality, respect and nonviolence, so tell the perpetrator when their behavior is abusive.
Challenge widely-held perceptions about domestic violence: Misconceptions such as the idea that survivors can “just leave,” domestic violence is only physical, or that domestic violence is a private family matter, still persist today. Survivors must think about their own safety and financial security, the safety of their children and pets, potential housing, etc. before they can “just leave.” Domestic violence can include physical, financial, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.
Domestic violence is an intersectional issue: Domestic violence does not happen in a vacuum and survivors often experience other “-isms” (e.g., sexism, racism, classism, etc.) These “isms” play a devastating role in perpetuating gender-based violence and place additional barriers to safety on victims.
Abuse is rooted in power and control: Abuse is intentional. It is a myth that someone who abuses their partner is “out of control.” Power is hard to give up or share, and abusive actions are purposeful with the goal of gaining power and control.
Trust the survivor’s perspective: Survivors know their experience and story better than anyone. Taking a survivor-centered approach empowers survivors by prioritizing their needs and wants. Empowering survivors returns their control and enables them to make their own decisions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing domestic violence.
Question media portrayal of domestic violence: Raising awareness is important but it is crucial to look at domestic violence reporting through a critical and trauma-informed lens. First and foremost, we must believe survivors, continue to hold celebrity offenders accountable, and keep in mind that everyone’s story is unique.
Domestic violence is not a “private, family matter”: 1 in 3 women will be a victim of domestic or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime, and each day and average of three women die at the hands of an intimate partner. Domestic violence affects us all; victims are our family members, neighbors, coworkers, and friends. All of us must be part of the solution.
Root your conversations in equality: One of the root causes of domestic violence is inequality. Addressing this root cause takes conscious action (e.g., calling out sexism, racism, or any other – ism when you see it) and significant social change.
Remember domestic violence affects all of us: You can support your community by volunteering or donating to domestic violence programs such as Crisis Services of North Alabama or the Jackson County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. For an appointment, please call 256.574.5826. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.