For a moment, I want to take a second and ask the question: What do you see?
What do you see when you look back at our movement? Some of you may see a time when women were viewed as property and had little to no recourse to address domestic violence.
You may see domestic violence as a private matter, one in which family members and strangers alike were reluctant to get involved.
Some of us see persons who have used violence to harm children and perpetuate the violence that has shattered the family unit.
And for some of us, looking back, we see victims who strived for safety but lost their lives at the hands of an abuser, even though they tried their best to exit a toxic relationship.
So, I ask you when you look into our society today, what do you see?
Stories are emerging, and new research highlights the impact of COVID-19 on our health, justice, and educational systems, and our overall way of life.
Many of you who do this work see the delay in the court cases, which means the uncertainty of protection orders and warrants for arrests.
Some people see victims and abusers forced to live together due to social isolation and economic reasons.
We see heightened violence and limited access to victim services because of covid-19, and the social and racial unrest, which makes our service provisions for those who do the work in communities very difficult.
Yet I would beg to offer what we see from the past and today and looking towards the future; it is not dark. There is light.
And I would like to tell you what else we can see that can carry us forward.
We see children smiling at the shelters because they can run, laugh, and play in peace without witnessing violence in the home for at least one day.
We see a victim become a survivor, regaining self-esteem and a sense of independence and purpose based on their personal resilience.
We have seen the enactment of laws and the addition of financial resources, which allowed us to meet victims’ and survivors’ needs in ways we never imagined—using technology and other innovations.
We see a better understanding of domestic violence’s intersectionality and its impacts on marginalized communities and groups that, in many cases, were overlooked in the past.
We see domestic violence no longer as a private matter, nor not just a crime, but as a mental health and public health issue that can impact victims and children across the lifespan. And all of society is starting to become aware based on your work and your efforts.
We also see a movement that demanded change and listened to victims and survivors. We have seen campaigns encouraging healing and hope, encouraging engagement and accountability for abusive persons who were willing to change.
Changes I witnessed from my own dad, who transitioned from a violent man to a non-violent man before he left this earth.
Today, the daunting challenges that we face make it easier to lean away from this work, from this mission, if you are a seasoned advocate in the field or a bystander in the community.
Arlene Vassell, a friend and leader in the movement, would agree that we must continue,
“we must continue, to amplify the voice of victims and survivors, our ancestors, those great advocates who invested sweat equity, often at the expense of time with their own families who ensure that other families could be safe”.Tweet
We must lean into the work and not lean away because at this critical time in our society we must lean in and see the promise that those fearless advocates, those community leaders, those brave allies who were committed to advance the field and its work – we must honor their contributions.”
As a former FVPSA and VOCA administrator for the state of Maryland, I understand the work that you, people who care, do in all sectors of the movement, and I applaud you for your commitment.
I will push forward and lean in to honor those individuals, survivors, advocates, and change agents, who have helped us get to where we are today. So that families, children, parents can have a sense of peace and know their commitment was not in vain.
So, I say to you, stay encouraged, and I ask you this question Looking forward,
What do you see?
The following link will introduce you Dr. Johnny Rice, II Dr. Johnny Rice II
Dr. Johnny Rice, II is the Board Chair, at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Coppin State University
Arlene Vassell, Vice President of Programs, Prevention & Social Change National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Theme – National Call for Unity 2020 -The above article is based on a speech by Dr. Johnny Rice II, to the kick-off for the National Call of Unity 2020 given by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. The link below will take you to the kick-off presentation for the National Call of Unity 2020. https://vawnet.org/material/national-call-unity-2020-one-voice-survivors-justice click on link Recording National Call for 2020.