I have written much over the past month or so about the intersection between Social Justice and the Family Care Network’s Practice of Caring. Now, I would like to carry the conversation into a broader social context–Domestic Violence and the substantial impact it has across all segments of our society. Many of the children, youth, and adults we serve are victims of Domestic Violence and the lingering trauma it produces. Domestic Violence has no socioeconomic boundaries permeating rich, poor, black, brown, white, young and old.
Let me create a perspective, one that I think is quite alarming. For many of us, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort; it’s a safe haven providing a reprieve from the busyness and turmoil of the real world. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year. Every 9 seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. And one in four men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
Here’s another shocking statistic: the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 is 6,488. The number of women who were murdered by current or ex-male partners during that same time frame is 11,766. The statistics and research about the destructiveness of Domestic Violence clearly demonstrate it is a blight on our communities, causing severe or permanent human damage.
As I previously wrote, Social Justice has nothing to do with liberalism or misguided conspiracies. It is the opportunity to provide for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of our most vulnerable populations; victims of neglect, abuse and social injustice. “Social” meaning it is related to society at large and its subsystems. “Justice” refers to the quality of being just, impartial, or fair. Justice is the most important objective of a civil Society. It is the basis of orderly human living. Justice demands the regulation of selfish actions of people for securing a fair distribution, equal treatment of equals, and proportionate and just rewards for all.
No healthy individual would disagree that Domestic Violence is a repugnant Social Injustice.
The first requirement of viewing Domestic Violence from a Social Justice perspective is to change our attitude about the problem. Too often we think of it in terms of the individual victims; treatments, services and preventative measures. It is too easy to have an “it’s their problem” approach. Social Justice views Domestic Violence from the impact it has on society as a whole. Certainly, individuals are injured and even killed, and individual treatment, services, and support are essential. But Domestic Violence affects everyone: children, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, first responders, and treatment providers. It has a pervasive social impact with serious health consequences. As such, preventing Domestic Violence must become a community priority.
The second essential approach to addressing Domestic Violence from a Social Justice perspective is to coalesce the community, key stakeholders, victims, the media, public education, law enforcement, and service organizations to address and solve the problem.
Lastly, there is a critical need to develop localized Community Strategies, following the seven CDC Prevention Guidelines. These include:
- Teaching safe and healthy relationship skills at multiple levels. Public schools, treatment, and service providers, and youth focused organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, church youth groups, et cetera.
- Engage influential adult and peer organizations such as Men and Boys as allies in prevention, bystander empowerment and education, family-based programs and services, and neighborhood/community groups.
- Disrupt the developmental pathways towards domestic violence through early childhood visitation, preschool enrichment with family engagement, parenting skills and family relationship building programs, and early intervention services for at risk children, youth and families.
- Create “protective” environments by improving school climate and safety, implementing innovative organizational policies and supportive workplace climate, and work towards improving the physical and social environments and culture of at-risk neighborhoods. There needs to be a strong, shared community attitude that Domestic Violence is not tolerated, that it is preventable and treatable
- Strengthen economic support for families through programs designed to build household financial security, workforce and career development programs, and educational programs on budgeting and effective household fiscal management.
- Increase support for survivors to promote healing and feelings of security, and reduce harm-risk. This could include better victim-centered services, safe housing programs, first responder and civil legal protections, and evidence-based treatment and support not only for the victims, but for their families.
- Conduct ongoing, community-wide media campaigns, including social media. These campaigns need to create greater public awareness and victim empowerment; provide new opportunities for community engagement and involvement, create a sense of “Community Ownership” for the health and safety of individuals and families, and promote community responsibilities in preventing Domestic Violence.
In our self-obsessed, “me-first” culture it is hard to overcome the temptation to disengage from our social responsibility to care for one another. It is important to remember that Social Justice “demands the regulation of selfish actions of people for securing a fair distribution, equal treatment of equals, and proportionate and just rewards for all.” It is an action of “we the people” working together to create a healthy, happy society for everyone, not a favored few.
There are way too many social issues that appear to be near impossible to ameliorate at the community level. Domestic violence, on the other hand, can be effectively mitigated through a strong, Social Justice approach. Research clearly demonstrates that when communities implement the strategies recommended by the CDC there are measurable improvements and reductions in Domestic Violence. This is Social Justice at work in a very positive, community-strengthening way.
Let’s roll up our sleeves, work together and substantially eliminate Domestic Violence on the Central Coast!