From “don’t speak unless you are spoken to” to “if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all” to any number of other expressions suggesting “going along to get along,” it can be difficult to empower young women to find their own voices and speak up for themselves when they get beat down — literally in some cases — with contradictory messages.
“Be your own person, but be compliant and don’t make waves” can be misinterpreted, telling young women to not use their voice to look out for their own interests ... including their own physical safety.
The Willow Domestic Violence Center presented a program, “Coming together to End Domestic Violence: A Community Response,” Thursday at Faith Lutheran Church in Ottawa for the organization’s community partners and others. While the Willow center is instrumental in helping victims of domestic violence, the organization’s leaders acknowledge it rarely is the first point of contact for victims. Those victims are most likely to reach out — if at all — to their family members, co-workers, people at church or school, physician or mental health professional or even a caring casual acquaintance.
Domestic violence isn’t limited to women, nor does it only impact certain socio-economic groups; instead it can affect anyone. Consequently, raising awareness of this plight and ways to help victims is imperative to eliminate it. A community must communicate its intolerance of domestic violence and those who inflict it on others, Kathy Wood, from Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said at the presentation.
Rather than asking why the victim didn’t leave an abusive situation, the question that really needs to be asked is why does the perpetrator — often a man — batter other people? The batterer is the “bad guy” that needs to be held accountable for his or her controlling and abusive treatment of others. The community must send the message that domestic violence is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated here.
Wood also issued a call to action for the community to take other steps to mitigate domestic violence by supporting leadership development for women and girls; talking about gender stereotypes; building relationships based on positive behavior and healthy masculinity and encouraging open communication in all settings that focuses on the kinds of behavior that are acceptable and unacceptable within a community. The community can help show its support for domestic violence prevention at a “Shining the Light Candlelight Vigil” 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Franklin County Courthouse lawn, 315 S. Main St.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher
editor and publisher