Friday, August 23, 2013

There is still a place for you in our village.

I grew up in the “Baby Boomer” generation.  In those days it was usually common practice for Grandma or Aunt Betty to live right down the street, or just across town, very close by.  If Mom and Dad were both away from home, which did not happen often,  one of the nearby relatives stepped in to fill their roles.  As society evolved, and more families were either single-parent or dual-worker households, or perhaps had just not lived up to their responsibilities, things began to change.  Perhaps your family had moved many miles away, or Grandma and Aunt Betty had jobs of their own outside of the house.  It became apparent that society had to change to fit the changed environment and provide for the latch-key kids, as they began to be called.  Schools began to offer programs before and after school;. Daycare facilities came on the scene….the popular mantra of the day was that “It takes a village to raise a child” and new and different components of that village came into existence.  All of these things have been in existence so long that it is hard to remember when we did not have them.
As we look at the issue of domestic violence today, we realize that we have “come a long way, baby”.  From the time of the 1970’s and before, when domestic violence was something that happened in the home that was nobody else’s business….something not to be talked about…..through the 1980’s when awareness began to develop and laws began to be passed, the winds of change were blowing.  The passage of the Violence against Women Act in 1994 was truly landmark legislation and the winds of change began to blow harder.  The 19 years that have passed have given us more changes, and more awareness and more and better laws……but the problem of domestic abuse lives on.  It has become apparent in the past few years that we need to borrow that old phrase from the 90s.  If, indeed, it took a village to raise a child, we need to develop our own village to combat the problem of domestic violence.  That plan is taking shape all over the United States, in varying stages in different communities.  If we are going to combat the problem of domestic violence, the entire community needs to be involved.  In our community, the process is well under way; we just need to continue to develop it and carry it out.  For the “village” to work properly, there needs to be strength in every component.  Law officers who know the law and enforce it are a vital component; we need strong prosecutors who are willing to use the full extent of the law to hold abusers accountable.  We need judges who understand the dynamics of domestic violence and current law to act on the cases; probation has to be on board to be sure the court’s orders are carried out; corrections need to offer programs which may enable an offender to learn while incarcerated.  We need advocates to support victims, to offer choices and safety planning, to coordinate services and to help give the victim a voice within the system.  Other social service agencies need to step up to help coordinate their services to give victims and their families all the help possible to return to safe and peaceful lives.  Family members need to offer loving, non-judgmental support to survivors, understanding that this may be a long and winding road back to normalcy.  If you fit into one of these roles, great.  If not, there is still a place for you in our village.  Each of us needs to know that sometimes we do need to be our neighbor’s keeper.  If you see or hear things that you know are not right, make the call to law enforcement.  If you become aware that someone needs your support, give it with love and understanding.  If an abuser brags about his or her abusive tactics, let them know it is not something that you support…..that it is not behavior that is OK.  Document things you see or hear….you never know when that information may be important to someone.  

Hopefully, there will be a day when domestic violence is eradicated.  To build toward that day, let each of us pledge to become a member of this village, and let each of us do our part to support victims and survivors of domestic violence.  We must also support law enforcement officers, court officials and others who are doing the work to end the problem of domestic violence.  If each of us does our part, we will be closer to finding a solution to this issue and ensuring lives of peace and safety for everybody.                                                       -Susie Kensil, Shelby County Coordinator

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