Words to Live by

Posted by: Peter Long, Ph.D.

"...to end domestic violence."

I read these words often in our mission statement, and frequently share them with policymakers, journalists, grantees, and others. Yet, in my day-to-day work, amidst busy schedules and lengthy to-do lists, I tend to gloss over the magnitude of the challenge these words imply. Beyond just prevention, intervention, and the provision of services, it can feel almost impossible to create a future in which the words "domestic violence" no longer exist.

Thankfully I can focus on the practical manifestations, like funding amazing organizations in every corner of the state who are driving this work and supporting women and families in their time of greatest need. I think about these critical frontline providers when I have time for more focused reflection - often while swimming laps. As I move through the water, I linger on the true meaning of the words "end domestic violence."

I think about how the foundation can help build culturally responsive systems that engage whole communities to break the cycle of violence. I also take heart from knowing that we continue our legacy of providing flexible, core operating grants to nearly every domestic violence organization in California, and offer additional funding to those leading social and cultural programs that meet the needs of diverse populations. I’m also encouraged by the fact that we now have an idea of what success looks like for survivors - not just practitioners and policymakers - thanks to our support for new research led by the Full Frame Initiative. I’m inspired, as well, by the staff and leaders at our grantee organizations who are willing to move beyond their comfort zone and work with new players and partners so that there is no wrong door for survivors seeking help. In the midst of these reflections, the words "ending domestic violence" feel more achievable with each lap.

I had additional time and space to consider the weight of these words in August, while on a family trip to Montana. There, with a seemingly infinite landscape around me and big sky above, I was reminded that ending domestic violence is not just about grants, policies, programs, or institutions; it's really about people. While philanthropic support is a critical piece of the overall puzzle, ending domestic violence will require much more from all of us - both collectively and individually.

Last month, I also had the privilege a joining Foundation staff and grantees for a series of meetings to discuss domestic violence with our colleagues at Blue Shield. More than 300 Blue Shield employees attended these voluntary sessions to learn more about the issue and find out how they could help. At first, we received basic questions, but then one brave woman rose to share her personal experience with domestic violence, and others were encouraged to tell their story too. It took just one voice to end the silence.

I was taken aback, but not surprised, to learn that nearly everyone in the room had either experienced domestic violence or knew someone who had been affected by it. The number of individuals who spoke up is consistent with our survey findings on the pervasiveness of domestic violence in California, making it even clearer that this devastating issue remains far too prevalent throughout our state.

What was also abundantly clear to me during these meetings, was the reservoir of good will and empathy that exists across California. Although the responses we heard reaffirmed the gravity and urgency of our work to end domestic violence, they also gave me renewed faith in the people who are the core of the solution.

As we move into Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the Foundation remains committed to our grantmaking, programs, and policy efforts, but most importantly - to making a difference in the lives of Californians for whom “ending domestic violence” means more than words can ever say.

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