Ideas to Work Toward Ending Violence Against Women
Christine Blasey Ford. McKenna Denson. Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby. Sexual assault. Domestic violence. Story after story. Many public and many more privately shared. So often I feel totally overwhelmed and hopeless that change will ever come.
Yet I’ve met so many amazing people on my journey – survivors, allies and advocates – who are changing things in their own way in their own circles. Their stories buoy me.
The Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) developed a theme this year focused on bringing about change through collective action. They encourage people to do one thing to eradicate domestic violence and believe that as people share their stories they will help shape the attitudes and behaviors of people around them.
Whether you are in the church or out, want to push for change in the church or feel completely frustrated by the prospect, I hope in the list below you can find some inspiration for one thing you can do in your congregation, community or simply among family or friends.
From the DVAP: “The #1Thing message is purposely broad, intended for personal application to each situation or story. Following are a series of statements that may be useful in determining how to frame your own organizational or personal message to end domestic violence.” (These are selections from their action guide. More can be found here.)
• #1Thing I want to share about my story
• As a survivor, #1Thing I need advocates to know
• #1Thing that has inspired me to work to end gender-based violence
• #1Thing I want my children to know
• As a community leader, #1Thing I want to share about my community
• #1Thing I do to take care of myself
• #1Thing that impacts my healing & resilience the most
• #1Thing I wish policy makers knew about gender-based violence & its impact on communities
• #1Thing my family could do to support my healing
• #1Thing I will do to address #DV is to speak out when I see microaggressions.
• I will write a Letter to the Editor about the need to support #DV services in my community. That’s my #1Thing. What’s yours?
• #1Thing I want my children to know about [love, race, justice, safety, privilege, equity]
• #1Thing to remember this #DVAM2018 is that #safehousing is consistently rated as survivors’ most urgent need. As DV advocates, advocacy for safe, affordable housing is our work too!
• Believing victims of domestic violence is #1Thing you can do to be a catalyst for change on both an individual and societal level.
• Survivors can often name #1Thing that opened the door to their healing and resilience. How can you help open that door?
• Exploring the impact of institutional racism and white supremacy culture at your organization is #1Thing you can do to dismantle the oppressive systems that perpetuate domestic violence and other injustices.
• Investing in trauma-informed social-emotional learning programs for young people is #1Thing we can do to foster healthy growth and resilience in our communities.
• When developing your training curricula, make room for participants to learn about the importance of community and bystander engagement and its impact on the efforts to end domestic violence.
Earlier this year, there was an excellent Exponent guest post with 46 actionable steps to prevent and address sexual assault and domestic violence. These were specifically for the LDS church, but of course many can be adapted for use outside of that context. For example:
#19. In a combined YM/YW meeting, teach youth to recognize warning signs of “grooming”… These conversations are valuable within our families and other community settings.
A few other suggestions from her list:
35. Teach parents not to make a child hug or kiss relatives, family friends, grandparents, etc., but rather affirm the child’s agency in choosing appropriate boundaries.
36. Invite a LCSW or other social services/mental health/justice system professional to teach adults and youth about domestic violence or sexual assault during a 5th Sunday combined meeting.
37. Invite women to lead combined 5th Sunday discussions on these topics.
38. Include men in discussions of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Do not allow abuse to be a woman’s issue.
39. Use 1st Sunday Council Meetings to discuss these issues. Ask Relief Society leaders to take ideas and recommendations to ward councils. Follow up on implementation.
This bunch of recommendations stood out to me in light of the church’s recent roll out of abuse.lds.org. While there are some things I find lacking on the new website, I think it’s overwhelmingly positive and a great direction for the church to head (For example, victims are encouraged to get professional care rather than go to the bishop. The opening line for the In Crisis tab is: “If you or someone you know has been abused, seek help immediately from civil authorities, child protective services, or adult protective services. You may also seek help from a victim advocate or medical or counseling professional.”) It has numerous links to national support networks (mostly US, some UK) and pages for victims as well as for people who want to offer support or help prevent abuse. Using the website as a springboard to advocate for a fifth Sunday lesson or Council Meeting discussing abuse could potentially be very beneficial. Here are some other suggestions from the site itself on how to support those who have been abused:
•Be informed. Learn what abuse is and how it affects victims.
•Understand how someone who has experienced abuse might feel. Often, victims of abuse are left with unhealthy thoughts as well as feelings of unworthiness and shame.
•Consider your words. The pain and suffering victims experience is often intensified by others’ comments rooted in a misunderstanding of abuse and its effects. Blaming the victim or making statements like “get over it” or “just forgive and forget” can lead the victim to increased secrecy and shame rather than healing and peace.
•Listen and love. When victims trust you enough to share their experiences with you, listen to them with love and empathy. Resist the urge to lecture or judge.
•Acknowledge and validate feelings. Like with a physical injury, if abuse is ignored, victims often do not heal properly. As you acknowledge and validate the victim’s feelings—such as being sad, hurt, or scared—you will help them on the path to healing.
Abuse.lds.org also advocates for open communication with children. I particularly like this point:
•It is okay to say no, even to an adult. You are in charge of your body. This means that you can decide if someone can touch you, hug you, or kiss you. If you are being touched or treated inappropriately or asked to do something that makes you feel embarrassed, awkward, or self-conscious, it is okay to say no and get away, if possible. Sometimes you might feel like giving someone a hug or kiss and sometimes you might not—and that is okay. You can practice saying “No,” “Don’t touch me,” and “Leave me alone.”
One other LDS-specific idea is:
•Advocate for two-deep policies for youth interviews. From another recent Exponent blog post:
Church publications and teachings need to acknowledge that the “two-deep” leadership in primary, youth, and interviews is to protect possible victims, not to “prevent misunderstandings.” This minimizes and denies abuse, which is in itself abusive. It also places blame on victims for “misunderstanding” rather than on perpetrators for inappropriate and abuse behavior.
A few more general ideas on 1Thing you can do I’ve taken from the Religious Insitute, which is “a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual, gender, and reproductive health, education, and justice in faith communities and society.”
•Learn accurate definitions of sexuality and gender identity – “Used correctly, the language describing sexual and gender diversity can prevent miscommunication, misperceptions, stereotypes and discrimination.”
•Write a letter to policy makers or a school board who may be voting on comprehensive sex education. There are sample letters and more ideas here.
•Host a study group reflecting on the stories & experiences of LGBTQ people. This advocacy guide for LGBTQ justice has a number of resources and other ideas.
•Host a film screening about LGBTQ justice issues with a discussion to follow.
•Host a study group around on the role of religion in the violence, persecution, and discrimination face by LGBTQ people. Reflect on how American faith voices can challenge, counter, and contain faith-based homophobia and hate.
In a fantastic interview with John Oliver, Anita Hill discussed the #MeToo Movement. She is optimistic things will get better. “If we do nothing, then change is not going to come.” I’m not holding my breath for change to come quickly. I imagine there will be many more setbacks. But talking to others about their #1Thing gives me hope. Collectively we can make a difference.