Domestic abuse: not just a women’s issue, but a community and family issue
by Sheba McCants
In 2011, Jacquelyn Boggess and Jill Groblewski, authored a report called “Safety & Services: Women of color speak out about their communities.” This report, published by Center for Family Policy and Practice, based here in Madison, was created with these goals in mind: “[to] capture and distill a wealth of information, knowledge, and experience that was shared regarding services for and needs among low-income communities of color.”
Listening sessions were held in Madison among five other U.S. cities that also included Milwaukee, and consisted primarily of African-American victims and survivors of intimate partner violence who were living at or near the poverty line. These sessions also included African-American domestic violence advocates and community and agency service providers of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds.
When asked what survivors want and need for their communities, a top priority identified in this report was for prevention education for youth. A pressing concern and common theme among listening session participants was for children who witness domestic violence. Participants expressed the belief that “ending the use of violence in interpersonal relationships has to start with the children, and many suggested that prevention education — for both boys and girls — is the only sure method of finally ending violence against women.” Participants felt that age-appropriate education on healthy relationships could counter some of the effects of witnessing domestic violence at home.
Statistics show that nearly one in three teens in the United States have been in a relationship that experience the most serious forms of dating violence and abuse including sexual abuse, physical abuse and threats of physical harm. Nationally, the problem of teen dating violence has taken on epidemic proportions.
However, there is a local organization that is addressing violence prevention here in Dane County. DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is at the forefront of combatting this epidemic by offering a wide array of crisis intervention and community education/prevention programs. DAIS’ prevention programs focus on addressing the root causes that support the abuse of power and control in intimate relationships. The MENS (Men Encouraging Nonviolence Strength) Club, one of DAIS’ main prevention initiatives, is a weekly, club-based group for high school-aged males that seeks to support them on their journey “growing up male” and encourages peer leadership. A minimum of ten sessions are co-facilitated by DAIS staff and school/organization staff and focus on gender roles and expectations, communication, conflict resolution, and healthy and less-healthy relationships. Currently, MENS clubs operate at Work and Learn Centers East and West, La Follette High School, West High School, and Lussier Community Education Center.
The DAIS “Celebrate Independence!” Luncheon, being held on Tuesday, June 24, will affirm the national priority for prevention education for youth. The 750-person luncheon will feature the nation’s leading expert on teen dating violence, Dr. Jill Murray as the keynote speaker. Dr. Murray has appeared on over 350 television shows including Oprah, 20/20 and Good Morning America. She has also authored the best-selling books: But I Love Him, Destructive Relationships, and But He Never Hit Me. Tickets to the DAIS “Celebrate Independence!” Luncheon are still available for purchase through the DAIS website: www.abuseintervention.org/celebrate-indepenence. On Monday, June 23, Dr. Murray will present a workshop for educators, parents and youth workers on healthy relationships and how teen relationships affect adult relationships. For registration information, please visit www.DAISworkshop.eventbrite.com.
DAIS, which has been in existence since 1977, believes that a world free from violence is possible and works to make Dane County, WI, a safer, more just, more equitable place for people who have experienced domestic violence, their children, and the people who love them. The mission of
DAIS is to empower those affected by domestic violence and advocate for social change through support, education and outreach. DAIS’ vision is a nonviolent community that actively promotes safety, peace, justice and hope. One of DAIS’ core values is shared responsibility. Domestic abuse is a community issue. DAIS believes that we all have a part to play in creating a safe and peaceful community. Through its prevention programs, DAIS is addressing the community need to work with youth to stop the cycle of violence before it begins. To learn more about DAIS please visit www.abuseintervention.org.
Sheba McCants is a development associate for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).