Last week, we introduced you to Karin Raye, an adjunct professor at Lasell College and a panelist at this year’s REACH Annual Meeting. Read on for the second in our two-part series, “Ask the Professor.”
When we hear about DV in the news, it can feel overwhelming. What do you believe community members, friends, and family can do in their personal lives and in their communities to make a difference?
One of the biggest and most troubling complaints that I have heard from survivors is that people knew, saw and suspected abuse, but never said anything. This silence serves to fuel the abuser’s sense of empowerment and control as well as erode the survivor’s belief that this isn’t ok and strengthen the belief that he or she may deserve the abuse or that it may be normal. But let’s be honest, DV is messy and scary and unfortunately, often very, very private. People don’t intervene for valid reasons – what are those reasons? Fear, safety, fear of intruding, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of then being responsible, the list is endless. But in reality, we all can play a role in ending domestic violence.
I have two mantras when I think about what I would like to see from folks in the community. The first I derive from the medical field, “Do no harm”.
To me that means many things: it means dismantle misogynistic lyrics with my kids, it means talking about the violence we see on TV, it means not victim blaming when we hear about terrible cases, it means not diminishing violence against men, women and children – straight and LGBTQ couples. It means don’t perpetuate or legitimize violence against anyone. It means not asking why a survivor doesn’t just leave. It means not allowing sexist language in your home, car, on technology. It means treating people we love with respect and modeling good relationships for our youth. It means fighting against a culture that legitimizes and even encourages violent behavior. We can all do this – regardless of our gender – everyday.
Do no harm and practice it daily.
My second mantra is “Don’t Do Nothing.” This means if you see or suspect something, do something. It means putting our electronics down and looking at our neighbor, friends, families, students, colleagues and sometimes even strangers face to face and listening to them, really listening and paying attention. It often means trusting your gut and taking a risk. Activism around domestic violence can be attending a forum like the ones REACH has hosted and spreading what you learn. It can be when a survivor speaks to share his or her story and those who honor it by listening. But that isn’t for everyone; people contribute to the world in different ways.
You can do anything, just not nothing. “I am worried about you and am here for you” counts a lot for someone who thinks they are very much alone in a place of terror, pain and control. Each person has their own way of reaching out – it may be using humor to diffuse a situation and then following up with someone later. It may be running a 10K in honor of survivors and posting it on your Facebook. It may be stopping by a neighbor’s after you read about an incident in the local police blotter. For a business, it can be posting signs or palm cards with resources in the restrooms or sponsoring a table at a DV fundraiser. It may be making a call or sending a text to ask if everything is ok.
Even if you blunder or make a mistake, it is will mean something to the person. Survivors often feel incredibly isolated and alone. You can change this.