As we wrap up Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as the YWCA Union County approaches its 40th year of providing services for victims of domestic violence, we are proud to introduce monthly blogs on our new website. These blogs will give us an opportunity to share our voice on current issues that relate to the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, to comment on current events, and from time to time to host guest bloggers to share their views.
39 years ago the “Battered Women’s Movement” as it was known then, was in its infancy. Learning from the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and others, the topic of domestic violence began moving out of the shadows and into public discussion. YWCA Eastern Union County, as we were known then, took this on as its central focus, starting what was the first and is still the only domestic violence emergency shelter in Union County. Since then, we have grown in service delivery, scope and strength, as the domestic violence movement has also moved forward to enable critical legislation and funding to protect and serve victims, increase awareness, and build a national safety net for survivors.
VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), FVPSA (Family Violence Prevention and Services Act) – who would have imagined these in 1978? Our movement has indeed facilitated funding, legislation, national, state and local networks, and more that continue to help victims access the services they need. Similarly, our YWCA has expanded beyond shelter, and now provides a comprehensive network of services ranging from court advocacy, children’s programming, counseling, crisis response, and more – and has just opened our new Family Justice Center, considered a “best practice” in the field of domestic violence – providing a one-stop location of law enforcement, prosecutor, civil legal, and domestic violence services under one roof. Our annual Domestic Violence Symposium, October DV Awareness Month events such as Empty Place at the Table, professional training and more help build knowledge and awareness throughout the community.
And yet while we have come so far – there is so much more work to be done! Domestic violence continues to be underreported, and DV homicides still are often reported as “troubled relationships.” Our mission-focused work on eliminating racism and empowering women is facing new challenges daily as misogyny and racism have re-entered the national conversation as acceptable to some, including many at the top level of power in our nation. Our work is made more complicated as we are no longer just addressing “violence against women” but must look at the intersection of gender oppression and racial oppression, and the particular needs of victims of underrepresented populations such as LGBT, men, people with disabilities and more. And as mass violence, often directed toward specific racial and ethnic groups, has entered our consciousness in the last several years, we recognize that a high percentage of individuals committing this type of violence have a history of domestic violence. As advocates, it is imperative that we address these challenges, take a stand against racism, misogyny and hatred, and raise our collective voice together to advance our agenda. The elimination of racism and the empowerment of women are more than just words – they are the central reason for the work we do and why we must increase our efforts so that our voice can be heard, loud and clear.
A friend recently said to me “Your YWCA is doing a great job, but there’s so much more to do if we want to end domestic violence in our lifetimes.” I can’t help but wonder if we will ever see that day – but I know that, even in the face of such a daunting challenge, we all need to start each day believing that through our efforts, one day at a time, we can begin to make a difference and begin to accomplish our mission – the elimination of racism and empowerment of women.Back