Thursday was a day filled with emotion and significance for those of us doing domestic violence work in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Events converged on a national, state, and local level that called attention to the issue of dating and domestic violence. We were proud to see President Obama sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) after a long battle of fighting for provisions to protect victims whether they are immigrants, Native American or lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender. We joined together with Jane Doe Inc. at the Massachusetts State House for White Ribbon Day, where hundreds of men from across the Commonwealth pledged to be part of the solution in ending violence against women. And closer to home in Wayland, a guilty verdict was handed down in a tragic case of teen dating violence homicide. This case serves as a painful reminder that relationship violence can happen anywhere, to anyone, and that it can happen when young lives are just beginning.
Words fail to do justice in times like these. No court can bring back a life filled with promise that was cut short on the verge of adulthood, and we grieve with the families who are so deeply affected. At the same time, we want to honor the wishes of the victim’s parents who sounded a call for people everywhere to continue the conversation about dating violence, its causes, and ways to prevent it. Knowing that VAWA will continue to protect victims, knowing that there are men who are willing to influence other men and reconsider their definitions of masculinity, knowing that there are neighbors looking out for neighbors and teens who are changing the culture of their schools…these are the things that give us hope and the will to keep going in our struggle.
All of us can play a role in this effort. Learn the signs of relationship violence, and know that what is predictable is preventable. Continue to build those strong bonds of community that are a known preventive factor for violence. And know that help is available. REACH’s hotline is available 24/7 if you need to talk, we have resources on how to talk to your teens about healthy relationships, and if you or someone you know is experiencing violence, our advocates are here to help. Together, we can and will reach beyond domestic violence.