Guest post by: Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN
March is a month of many celebrations. The March celebration that is most dear to my heart is the observation of Women’s History Month. A time to acknowledge our fore-mothers who made noise, made progress, made room for change, and made herstory! When you celebrate the fortitude of a community of people you must also recognize the forces they are up against.
Sadly, one of the factors that give women a similar connective experience is the constant threat of sexual and physical violence. Women are disproportionately targeted (1 in 3 women) and have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. When over 33% of a single community report surviving intimate partner violence, and then we consider the number of women who are not in a position to report their experiences, we can assume that at some point in our lifetime we will either become a victim or know and love a woman who is a victim of gender-based violence.
This is an unavoidable plot in our story. Women are at risk of being preyed upon by abusers in dark alleys near our jobs, but also in well-lit hallways near our kid’s room. Intimate partner abuse (wife beating as it’s been called) wasn’t against the law in the United States until 1920. There were no legal consequences in place until the 1970’s, and The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994. The statistics are appalling. The response survivors have received from police, medical staff, and even friends and family are often injurious and insensitive.
It is a time to proclaim that yes women have been victimized, but that women have also been on the front lines for the progression of services and support concerning intimate partner violence. March is a time to celebrate Women’s History! We celebrate women and their contribution to raising awareness, providing support, and challenging social attitudes around violence against women.
This month we have been motivated by Oleta “Lee” Abrams, who co-founded the first rape crisis center in the U.S. In response to her daughter’s rape and lack of support from the doctor who treated her daughter after she was attacked. Oleta and two friends opened Bay Area Women Against Rape. This center is still open today.
We are encouraged by Erin Pizzey. Erin established the first domestic violence shelter in Europe more than 40 years ago (1970). She also wrote one of the first books on the topic “Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear” in 1974.
We are indebted to Maria Macias who was killed by her estranged husband when police failed to enforce her restraining order after 22 calls for help.
Today the U.S. has over 1,900 shelters or support programs for survivors. While the survivors continue to out-number the beds, there are 1,900 places with caring people who will listen and believe survivors. Those same people ask how we can systematically end this and remember the history and attempt to reshape the future for women.
How will you March forward into the rest of the 2016? Will you read more about accomplishments women have contributed? Will you donate to a local domestic violence shelter? Will you teach the boys and men in your life about consent?
If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence or experiencing power and control dynamic in their relationship that feel abusive or unsafe HAVEN is here to help and our crisis and support line is ALWAYS open for you: 877-922-1274.