Since 1987, November has officially been Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It seems obvious what the purpose of any formally designated awareness-raising month is: stand up for the cause, donate any resources you have to offer, increase awareness, work to eradicate, and remember those impacted. But less obvious is what this equates to the other 11 months of the year. What happens when the banners are put away on November 30th, and December 1st brings with it Cervical Health Awareness, National Birth Defects Prevention, National Glaucoma, and National Influenza Vaccination Week, just to name a few? Do we simply pat ourselves on the back and say, “Good month, good cause, well done; we’ll revisit that issue again next November when we have more lost lives to grieve”?
I suggest no.
I propose that we start embracing what we can do the remaining 335 days of the year. The idea is actually quite simple: let’s pay consistent attention to an issue more often than not placed mistakenly into the “mind your own business” category, only to be pulled out when the calendar gives us the thumbs up to chat about it.
We’ve all heard (and sometimes subscribed to) the sentiments that surround the issue of domestic violence:
- “What goes on in private homes is personal business.”
- “It’s not my place to tell people how to talk to or treat one another.”
- “I don’t want to make it worse by butting my nose in.”
- “I don’t want to offend anyone if I am wrong.”
- “That’s just how they’ve always been; I don’t want to overreact.”
These sentiments and many others reinforce and stabilize a foundation of silence that results in:
- Friends being mistreated
- Coworkers missing work
- Businesses losing money
- Family members being murdered
- Tax dollars covering the costs of a disproportionate amount of health care needed to tend to the injured
- Community children being lost to the foster care system when those impacted by domestic violence can no longer function or are no longer alive to care for them
I am putting forth a challenge to reframe any paralyzing sentiments we hold in such a way that we feel not only compelled, but also entitled to take action when we suspect someone is being abused.
Not just in November, but always.
This reframing means our responses to domestic violence should look more like this:
- “It is not only my business, but it is my humanity to acknowledge when I think someone is not safe.”
- “I have a right to ask questions, even when someone may not like what I am asking.”
- “I am responsible for both what I do AND what I DON’T do if someone gets harmed. Bystander apathy is not an acceptable position or excuse for me.”
- “I will take the risk of being wrong or looking stupid if it means (at the very least) someone knows I care enough to say something, and at best I save a life.”
Consider the following mission statement as a viable and necessary call to action as we near the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but not the end of the issue. When it comes to domestic violence:
“Mind your business by making it your business.”
Not just in November, but all year round.
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