Recognizing the current uptick in domestic violence that is occurring in parallel with the COVID-19 global health crisis, Grace Farms’ “Safe at Home” webinar brought together national and international experts in domestic violence to discuss new ways to reach and support victims and survivors during these unprecedented times.
The level of engagement with this program and others in our “Preventing Violence Against Women” public advocacy series has been deeply encouraging, and we are inspired by the willingness of the public to collaborate in raising awareness for this often underreported and underrepresented humanitarian issue.
In an effort to further our discussions and address a sampling of unanswered inquiries from our previous programs, Alina Marquez Reynolds, General Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Justice Initiative, is featured in the below Q&A, responding to issues and concerns surrounding the continued need to shift and change the culture of violence against women.
Question: Does domestic violence only encompass physical abuse?
Answer: Domestic violence has many forms in addition to physical abuse, but we often fail to recognize these other forms because they are hidden inside each victim. Domestic violence is about control. Physical violence is only one way that abusers exert control over their victims. Verbal and emotional abuse, isolation, and the threat of physical harm are also powerful tools of control and coercion. This type of psychological abuse can last for prolonged periods of time, and can cause injuries to victims that often last longer than physical scars. It is important to guard against narrowing the definition of domestic violence in such a way that it discounts these other equally serious forms of abuse. We must all learn to look closer for signs of abuse that may not be as visible as a bruise, but that nonetheless cause great pain and suffering.
Question: Why is intimate partner violence still largely considered a taboo and a family matter to be dealt with privately, and what impact does this have on the ability to identify and prevent it?
Answer: We have to change the culture. For too long domestic violence was not even considered a crime. Indeed, in many countries around the world it is still not considered a crime, leaving victims there with no legal recourse. Here in the United States we should all understand by now that domestic violence is a serious crime and not just a family problem. Even so, as with any crime problem, especially crimes that disproportionally affect women, we must all continue to educate ourselves and our families so we can be part of the solution. Education, awareness, and outreach are all important as we continue to change the culture. We must guard against victim blaming – too many times you hear, “why didn’t she just leave.” It is important that we focus less on what the victim did or didn’t do. We need to focus more on the offender’s conduct. If we are serious about changing the culture, then it is important to hold offenders accountable for their conduct, regardless of their relationship with the victim.
Question: How can our laws and policies assist in shifting the culture?
Answer: Law enforcement officers and prosecutors know that it is important to dedicate resources to the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases. Only by effectively enforcing the laws on the books can offenders be held accountable. One such law is the federal gun law that prohibits possession of firearms by offenders who are either subject to a valid protective order or who have previously been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence assault. By bringing these cases, law enforcement can get guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders before the violence escalates and they use them against their victims.
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence
www.ctsafeconnect.org or call 888-774-2900
Grace Farms Foundation’s “Preventing Violence Against Women” advocacy series and associated resources are a reflection of our Justice Initiative’s ongoing work to disrupt gender-based violence. For further information on upcoming virtual programs, please browse our Digital Events page.