“From this day forward, I promise to be part of the solution to ending domestic violence against women.”
Recent headline news of domestic violence within the NFL has sparked a much-needed national conversation.
Statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence indicate the problem is a worldwide epidemic.
A 2013 report of the World Health Organization, titled “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence,” found that intimate-partner violence affects 30 percent of women worldwide.
According to Domestic Violence Statistics, every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten, and the abuser most often is a member of her own family. DVS reports that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
Domestic violence is a serious and deadly problem. Every day in the United States, more than three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. The WHO estimates that 38 percent of all women murdered are killed by their intimate partner. Domestic violence also has a devastating economic impact on victims. DVS says the costs of intimate-partner violence in the U.S. alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion is for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.
The Act establishes the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. The VAWA emphasizes coordinated community-based efforts to end domestic violence, sex dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
One of the community-based prevention efforts VAWA funding supports is a program known as the White Ribbon Day Campaign, which challenges men to take active steps to end violence against women.
In 1991, a group of Canadian men started the observance. These men pledged to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
The White Ribbon has spread to more than 60 countries around the world since then. The campaign encourages men to wear the ribbon and take the pledge, which is a promise to be part of the solution to curb, reduce and eventually eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault against women.
It is a promise to take action: “If you see something, say something; if you know something, do something; if you hear something, take action.”
On Valentine’s Day 2008, I first took the White Ribbon Pledge. Since then, I have had dozens, if not hundreds, of discussions with boys and men about what we can do to end domestic violence.
My personal white ribbon journey has been enlightening, sobering and inspirational. I’ve met so many people who have influenced and deepened my commitment.
I met an 18-year-old man who was contributing to the cause by conducting breakup workshops with his peers, teaching them how to end relationships without resorting to violence. I met a 47-year-old man who engaged his friends at the local bar during his Thursday “guys night out” to have frank discussions on how they were possibly, tacitly contributing to sanctioning domestic violence within their community, and offering concrete ways to be part of the solution.
I met a woman who — after 27 years in an extremely abusive relationship — was helping other women find strength to stand against intimate-partner violence. I met a woman who sponsored weekly spaghetti dinners to offer her community a forum for public discourse.
I met another man who lost his daughter to domestic violence on a college campus. In her memory, he had dedicated his life to speaking out against domestic violence (especially on college campuses) and demanding that men stand firm against it.
When I raised my right hand and promised to be part of the solution to end domestic violence against women, I envisioned a world where masculinity embraces the best aspects of our humanity.
As social workers, we can help individuals, families, groups and communities examine the causes of domestic violence and create a culture without intimate-partner violence.
NASW member Tricia Bent-Goodley, a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., wrote a book titled “The Ultimate Betrayal,” which examines the issues surrounding domestic violence. Each chapter includes additional resources for further reading. The book is available through the NASW Press at naswpress.org.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981, by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered womens advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. Visit ncadv.org for more information.