How Can We Work Together to End Domestic Violence? – Lisa Jacobson

YWCA October Blog 2015

We have come a long way in addressing the epidemic of domestic violence, but we still have work to do.

Some statistics cite that one in three women or girls will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  I am grateful that I have not personally experienced violence in my life.  However, I have a dear friend, as well as a family member who have suffered verbal and vicious physical abuse by the very person whom they loved.

By raising awareness and publicly advocating for victims we have made progress.  Vigils, education forums, and walks are held in the month of October to shine a bright light on domestic violence.

The Zonta Club of Malden and Zonta International, through their Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women campaign, have just completed their second annual STEPS walk (Steps Toward Empowering Personal Safety).  This walk, founded by the late Joanne Lambert, is in collaboration with the Malden Teen Enrichment Center, the youth of the YMCA, the YWCA and the Z Club.  The Step-off ceremony that preceded the walk this year included remarks by Mayor Gary Christensen, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and a presentation of the Silent Witnesses.

For those of you not familiar with the Silent Witness Project, it began in Minnesota in 1990 when a group of women artists and writers were upset about the growing number of women being murdered by their partners or acquaintances.  They wanted to commemorate the lives of the 26 women who died in 1990.  They created free standing, life-sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who once worked, had neighbors, friends, family, children but whose lives ended violently at the hands of a husband, ex-husband, partner or acquaintance. A 27th figure was added to represent those uncounted women whose murders either went unsolved or were erroneously ruled an accident.  They called the figures “The Silent Witnesses”

The exhibit at the STEPS walk in 2015, provided by REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, included 14 silent witnesses, one for each of the 13 people that had been murdered by domestic violence thus far in 2015, plus the additional figure representing the unknown victims.  Sadly, the 13 victims this year were 11 women, ranging in ages from 17 to 55 years old, and 2 men, both in their 30’s.  The walkers departed from the Salemwood School, led by Mayor Christensen, marched along Salem Street, down Holden Street, and returned to the Salemwood School along the bike path.  Banners and signs proclaiming messages against domestic violence were held.  DA Ryan remarked that the issue of domestic violence is a hidden one, one that is kept private and behind closed doors.  By walking past houses and businesses, the walkers demonstrated to victims and perpetrators that violence in all its forms is not tolerable.

So, back to the question:  How can we work together to end domestic violence.  I don’t have the answer, I only know we need to continue the conversation about it; remain aware of it, and equip ourselves with information about where victims can get help.  We are fortunate to have many local agencies, such as Portal to Hope, the Intimate Partner Violence Project, the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, Respond, and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence.

As the current President of the Zonta Club of Malden, I am proud of the work of Zonta International.  Locally, in addition to the STEPS walk, the Zonta Club of Malden produced a Public Service Announcement in 2013 that aired on MATV, as well as produced posters that hang in local ladies rooms with information on where victims can seek help.  Internationally, Zonta is funding projects, including delaying early marriage in Niger, piloting a Gender Responsive Schools Model in Vietnam, and contributing nearly $1,000,000 toward the Voices Against Violence, a non-formal education curriculum for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts on ending violence against women and girls, among others.

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