It’s time to stop asking why they stayed and start asking what we can do to help.
There have been many unprecedented conversations about domestic violence these past few months, raising questions about the policies of sports leagues, the mentality of victims and abusers, the role of prosecutors and the responsibilities of employers. Yet, missing from these conversations is the voice of the thousands of victims who experience this violence each day and need support to get help.
Those in abusive relationships often express the feeling of being utterly alone. The pain of that isolation is made more chilling when the victim’s choices are judged—by family or friends, by employers or by the public and media. Until we acknowledge the unequal power dynamics and complexities of abusive relationships, we will continue to blame the victims rather than empower them with the support and encouragement to seek help.
Today, we are asking New Yorkers to take one simple step: to move from being bystanders to “UpStanders.” UpStanders recognize that every person plays a role in preventing domestic violence. We would like every New Yorker to join this effort.
In the past year, the NYPD responded to more than 284,000 domestic violence incidents—on average, 779 per day. And these are just the reports made to the police. In 2013, there were 62 family-related homicides in New York City. Seventy-five percent of these homicide victims had no prior contact with the NYPD before they were killed.
What does this tell us?
The occurrence of domestic violence is staggering. So far, in 2014, there have been more than 43,000 client visits to the city’s four Family Justice Centers. Throughout New York City, violence in the home is a terrifying reality for thousands of people each day. Statistics show that this violence disproportionately affects women, but that men, older adults, youth and LGBTQ-identified people are also victims of intimate partner violence. Domestic violence not only damages the lives of victims’ children but also makes it more likely that their own children will one day experience the violence of abuse in their homes.
This October, in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the city of New York is launching the UpStander campaign, a call to action to raise awareness about the ways we can prevent or help victims of domestic violence.
Here’s how you can become an UpStander today:
• Recognize and speak out against intimate partner violence, gender injustice and all forms of abuse.
• Speak up when you hear jokes or other statements that promote violence.
• Offer nonjudgmental and unconditional support for someone who has experienced abuse.
• If you are a victim of abuse, get help from an expert, advocate or other professional.
• Employers, attend the NYC Domestic Violence and the Workplace Forum Oct. 16, to learn about best practices for addressing and empowering employees who are victims of domestic violence.
• Contact appropriate resources. Call the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE, visit nyc.gov/domesticviolence or call 311 to reach the city’s Family Justice Centers. The Family Justice Centers offer civil legal, social and supportive services and access to prosecutors and domestic violence police officers all in one location. Services are free and confidential, regardless of immigration status, language, income, gender identity or sexual orientation. In case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.
It’s all too easy to categorize domestic violence as a family or private matter. Let’s make sure that the national conversation on this issue does not fade away and that together we are the change in ending domestic violence.
For more information on Family Justice Centers and to register for the Domestic Violence and the Workplace Forum, visit nyc.gov/domesticviolence. For more information on Domestic Violence Awareness Month, follow the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence at @nycagainstabuse.
This op-ed first appeared in Amsterdam News on Friday, October 17, 2014, in partnership with Rose Pierre-Louis, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.