Earlier this week was Groundhog Day. That’s either a reminder that we have several more weeks of winter (shadow or not) or that things keep repeating (remember Bill Murray)? Sometimes is does feel like the same old same old every day. Stay home, stay away from family and friends, go out only when absolutely necessary, schedule yet more Zoom meetings, busier than ever.
But what are we accomplishing? I just wrapped up a series of reports highlighting our coalition work. Sometimes I struggle to accurately report what we do here every day. And what difference is it making?
And then we hear from a survivor either by phone or email. They share with us the on-going struggles they face trying to keep themselves and their children safe on a daily basis. Trying to maintain a job, keep the kids in virtual school, pay the bills, put food on the table and continue to dodge the ongoing coercion and financial abuse they face every day. Courts that won’t issue emergency orders of protection, prosecutors who don’t file appropriate charges, mediators who aren’t recognizing signs of power and control dynamics. Are we helping?
Just last week, our Director of Policy and Systems Advocacy, Christine, hosted a meeting of survivors that have been in touch with our office for a variety of reasons. Eight people attended. This was a first of what we hope is a fruitful relationship where the direct voices of survivors can create actions that truly make an impact on the systems that all survivors have to maneuver. Each of these survivors have faced barriers to safety that they never imagined would limit their capacity to achieve independence. But they continue to embrace the need to act and to bring about change so others that have experienced domestic violence won’t have to endure the same struggles.
Our coalition is now 42 years old. We have two DV services programs in this state that have existed since 1972. Still survivors tell us similar stories. What change have we accomplished?
This litany is highlighting that we have indeed seen much improvement in local responses to families experiencing domestic violence. Better police training, wider acknowledgement of non-violence domestic violence by social workers, educators and medical professionals. I am often engaged in collaborative efforts where everyone in the room immediately understands what an epidemic domestic violence is in our society.
But this past year in particular those of us that work in the field to end domestic violence understand more clearly than ever that our work must focus on uncovering and responding to the root causes of all violence: racism, sexism, poverty, classism. This means we will continue to explore what resources need to be developed to help families, including alternatives for those that are causing the most harm in their homes.
Everyone reading this has a part to play. Who in your network of family, friends and work colleagues might be experiencing domestic violence? Lend a listening ear. Provide the hotline number for help. 877-863-6338. Provide our website. www.ilcadv.org. Please join us. We really are making a difference and you can too.
By Vickie Smith, President/CEO of ICADV