By Linda Cavaioli
Executive Director, YWCA Central Massachusetts
The key to ending domestic violence lies in awareness, education, and action. When the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed 26 years ago, these goals were at the forefront of the movement. While things have changed quite a bit since 1987, the fact is we still have a long way to go to put an end to violence against women and girls.
Spreading awareness of this violence, which the World Health Organization described as a global health problem of epidemic proportions, would seem an easy task. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Domestic violence is often considered a private matter, with bystanders seldom willing to take a stand or unsure of how to help, and abuse victims are often afraid to come forward for fear of further violence, as well as financial, legal and personal struggles.
The first step is to spread the word far and wide that violence against women and girls is not acceptable, and will not be tolerated. We need to let victims know that they are not alone, and let the public know what they can do to help. With outreach, we can get the message across that one in four women in the United States will be abused in their lifetime. These are women from all walks of life, of all genders, races, religions, and income levels.
Education plays a key role in helping put an end to the violence. As an individual it is important to learn as much as you can about the issue, and make a personal commitment to help stop it. We can use our voice to let others know where we stand on the issue of domestic violence. We can talk to the young people in our lives, and let them know that relationship violence is never acceptable. We can offer help to someone we believe may be a victim. We can speak with our community leaders about what steps they can take to help end the violence.
Finally, we can take action to help put an end to domestic violence once and for all. We can all do something, whether it’s volunteering or donating to your local domestic violence service provider, calling the police if you hear or see domestic violence, or contacting your legislators to urge them to make ending violence against women and girls a top priority.
These legislators are the ones who make the final decisions on important issues regarding domestic violence, including setting stronger penalties for perpetrators, setting aside additional funding for preventative measures, and assuring that victims of this violence are protected.
At the YWCA Central Massachusetts, we offer a range of Domestic Violence Services, including a 24-hour hotline, confidential emergency shelter, court advocacy, counseling, support groups, information and referrals, and community education. We outreach to schools, businesses, and non-profits in Central and North Central Massachusetts to educate on violence prevention and the services that are available in our community. The YWCA leads community networks and coalitions, bringing different local stakeholders together to create community solutions to prevent domestic violence. We also hold events to speak out against violence and build awareness of the issue.
There is no excuse for abuse; together, we can put an end to violence against women and girls.
Linda Cavaioli has served as Executive Director of the YWCA of Central Massachusetts since 1992.
This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2013 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.