Throughout this year and especially in the past couple months there have been ample opportunities to engage in conversation with friends and family about domestic violence. Here at REACH we believe that everyone has a role in preventing domestic violence; whether it be while watching the Superbowl or the Grammys or hearing your colleagues discuss the movie 50 Shades of Grey, we ask that you do your part by using these moments to engage those around you in a conversation about this issue. Many of us care about preventing intimate partner violence but can feel intimidated about how to get the conversation started. Here are some ideas of how to start a dialogue:
1. Educate yourself: There are many ways to learn about domestic violence, through reading information on our website or attending an in-person training.
2. If you recently learned about domestic violence in one of these ways, you can use this as an introduction. For instance, “I just attended a forum in my community that was about this issue. I learned that…”
3. Ask open ended questions: Ask the people you’re with what they think, or if you’re watching something together and the subject comes up, give space for them to share their opinions. Something as simple as, “Wow, I thought that was a really powerful PSA. What did you think of it?”
4. Use “I” statements- Let people know your opinions without shutting their ideas down. The issue of domestic violence brings up a lot of feelings in all of us. In order to be able to engage in dialogue, we need to create a space where folks can explore those feelings.
5. If you feel comfortable, share why this information is important to you. We are most impacted by the people we care about- if your friend/colleague/family member hears why you are passionate about this topic, it may make them become more interested as well
6. Interrupt victim blaming: With compassion and kindness, we want to interrupt the idea that survivors of domestic violence are to blame for their abuse. This is where learning statistics or feeling grounded in research can help. For instance, if someone were to say, “Why don’t they just leave? It can’t be that bad if they stayed.” You can share back that there are many reasons why someone may stay in the relationship. You can counter the question with, “That’s a good question, but it really puts the blame on the survivor. Have you ever thought about the question- why do abusers abuse?”
7. Keep the conversation going: Too often we hear a lot about domestic violence right after a tragedy, but as the headlines fade, so does the conversation. It’s up to all of us to keep this dialogue alive. This dialogue can be proactive and allow us to explore what healthy relationships are and look like with the people in our lives. We don’t always know what the people we care about have experienced- simply starting the conversation can be life-saving.
Having these conversations can be uncomfortable at times, but it is a vital part of bringing this topic out of the shadows. You also don’t have to do this alone- we at REACH want to support you if you are engaging in conversations that are difficult. Let us know how we can help.