Help domestic violence survivors by seeing their truth | Opinion
This year, Domestic Violence Awareness Month arrives during an intense period of activism and national reflection on gender and power-based violence. For us, DVAM gives us an opportunity to show domestic violence survivors in particular that their safety is a value we all stand for.
Showing that commitment has real power for survivors. We feel this at Refuge House. Most people in the community think of us as a building — a big shelter (or two) where domestic violence survivors and their children can be safe, rest and regroup in the aftermath of violence. And yes, those four walls are a blessing.
But as important to survivors is who greets them when they arrive: a team of people passionately committed to supporting every person who comes through the door, who believe firmly that what happened them was wrong, and who will advocate for them as survivors of a cruel cultural practice that has been excused for generations.
Survivors rely on us — not only for the services we provide, but for the strength that comes from knowing that we exist for them, dedicated to those values and that voice.
I say this not only to express what our small but mighty agency stands for, but what our community as a whole can and should stand for. Survivors feel sharply the difference between how they feel — supported and seen — when living in our shelters or interacting with our staff in our counseling programs, and how they often feel — alone and invisible — as they move into the community and try to recover a life.
Here at Refuge House, we talk about the shock and stress survivors feel as they leave the “Refuge House bubble” and have to cope in neighborhoods, jobs, faith communities and schools, where they do not see and hear much that recognizes them.
Offering survivors that public support and daily recognition is what Domestic Violence Awareness Month is all about. Our community stands with survivors and their children. Let’s show it.
It means the world for survivors to see you take the time and make the effort. A survivor feel proud when the subdivision she lives in displays a purple ribbon on the neighborhood sign.
A survivor feels important when every month her faith leader includes a statement like, “This congregation is safe for survivors of domestic violence. We honor your lives and your freedom,” in the bulletin. A survivor feels real when her boss or co-worker speaks up in a staff meeting, discloses that she or he was a victim of domestic violence, and wants every survivor in the company to succeed. A survivor feels like a hero to see herself in other survivors who have disclosed their experiences.
Our DVAM theme this year is “#1 Thing”: Let’s do one thing as individuals and in our communities to show that we see and support survivors. That one thing means the world, because it changes the world.
Meg Baldwin is the executive director of Refuge House.