“Why don’t victims just leave?”

I recently wrote this guest column for publication in Sound Publishing community newspapers.

nomoreThose of us who work at domestic violence programs hear this question all the time. The truth is, they do. Every day we hear from survivors of abuse who were able to find the support and resources they needed to be safe and self-sufficient.

Every day we also hear from people who are unable to leave because they fear the abuser will be more violent if they do. This fear is very real. According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review, in at least 55% of homicides by abusers, the victim had left or was trying to leave.

Many people are unable to leave an abusive relationship because they have nowhere to go. Our communities don’t have enough affordable housing, and shelters and transitional housing units are limited. On just one day last year, domestic violence programs in Washington could not meet 267 requests for housing. People often stay with or return to an abusive partner because they don’t have the money to support themselves or their children.

We also hear from people who don’t want to leave, but want the abuse to stop. Research consistently shows that people in an abusive relationship make repeated efforts to be safe and self-sufficient, but there are many barriers—both external, such as limited resources or support; and internal, such as an emotional connection to their partner or a desire for their children to be with both parents—that makes this very difficult.

But here’s the thing: This is absolutely the wrong question to be asking, as it implies that victims are responsible for ending violence. They aren’t. Instead, we should be asking what we can do to stop abusers from being violent and controlling.

2014 in review

Happy New Year! WordPress prepared a 2014 stats summary of Can You Relate. Thanks to all of you who are in conversation with us!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 58,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 21 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Don’t just be aware, be involved

I’m not a big fan of awareness months. There are so many these days that each month shares a long list of issues to be aware of along with a corresponding ribbon color. There’s even a Zombie Awareness Month. It’s May (gray ribbon) in case you want to mark your calendar.

Every October, when Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes around, I have an uneasy feeling. It’s not that I don’t think that domestic violence awareness is important. Of course it is. But I wonder what we are accomplishing. Does awareness actually lead to behavior change? Researchers say no.

I’ve seen awareness about domestic violence grow significantly over the years. That’s a great thing and it needed to happen. But I don’t want us to stop there. Now that people are aware, I want them to act. I want everyone to realize that they can be a part of the solution. They can learn about the resources out there so if someone turns to them for help they’ll know what to do. They can talk to young people about what a healthy relationship looks like. They can ask a friend “How’s your relationship?” and make chatting about this a normal part of life.

I’m not suggesting we all cancel our Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities. But let’s shift our focus to turning October into Domestic Violence ACTION Month.DVAM-logo

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Our Refuse To Abuse® domestic violence prevention campaign with the Seattle Mariners was highlighted in the New York Times this past week, calling out the “proactive approach” and noting that “the campaign has promoted safe, healthy relationships.”

An important article on the racial parenting divide as the media continues to discuss Adrian Peterson.

Congratulations to Sarah Deer, named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow this week! “The MacArthur Fellowship will change my life in a number of ways, but more importantly it will allow me to do more focused work on the passion that I have for justice for Native women.”

News you can relate to

We—along with the rest of the country and world—have our eyes on Ferguson, Missouri. This edition of our news round-up features some of the amazing writers who are sharing their voice, perspective, experience. Here are just a few:

The Murder of Black Youth is a Reproductive Justice Issue

When Parenting Feels Like a Fool’s Errand: On the Death of Michael Brown

Why I Don’t Call the Police

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

This cartoon that’s been making the rounds this week is a great response to folks who question if women really get sexually harassed on a regular basis. (explicit language)

I’m a big fan of Amy Poehler’s Ask Amy show. This week I discovered Stephen Colbert is also candidly fielding questions from teen girls as part of the Ask a Grown Man series.

While the NFL is finally considering some actual consequences for domestic violence following the outrage over Ray Rice’s measly two game suspension, the concept of prevention—and the role coaches can play in mentoring young men—has entered the dialogue.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

The high school senior that was kicked out of her prom for her dress tells the story of her experience:I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives.” (explicit language)

Families receiving public assistance are often criticized for how they spend their money. The actual data, however, shows just how uncalled for this criticism is.

As doctors debate whether screening for domestic violence helps or not, I’m wondering why—given how prevalent it is—they don’t just routinely provide information about local domestic violence advocacy programs. That way, patients will know where they can get help regardless of whether they choose to disclose to their doctor.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

The Army just released new regulations that specify “unauthorized hairstyles.” Thousands have signed a White House petition challenging the racially biased restrictions. “While the Army certainly isn’t the first to impose these kinds of prohibitions, it may be the most egregious example, considering that the 26,000 black women affected by AR 670-1 are willing to die for their country.”

What does the science documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and social justice have in common? Neil deGrasse Tyson. A must-read for the feminist science fan.

The White House has a new PSA about sexual assault as part of the 1 is 2 Many campaign. What do you think of it?

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

A look at how the passage of HB1840 in  Washington State —restricting abusers’ access to firearms—and the NRA’s changing stance on domestic violence is impacting other states looking to advance similar bills.

A new campaign, Make Them Visible is exploring the extent to which we ignore homeless people on the street.

Jessica Valenti calls out talk of the female “confidence gap” as a sham: “The truth is, if you’re not insecure, you’re not paying attention. Women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them.”

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

In an interview with Debbie Reese, Colorlines explores how the representation of Native people in children’s books perpetuates problematic stereotypes.

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day—the day for women across the country to mark the outrageous reality that it took us working into April of 2014 to make the same amount that our male counterparts earned in 2013.

Our friends at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and the Seattle Mariners have teamed up with Macklemore on a new anti-bullying campaign. Check it out!