Domestic violence prevention: it's everyone's job

Watercolor painting reads, "Breaking cycles of harm to create liberated community"

Domestic violence is a devastating problem that afflicts millions of individuals and families across the country. What was once viewed as a private or family matter is increasingly recognized as a pressing public health crisis. Lucia Corral Peña, our program director, went to the White House this week to celebrate a year since the release of the first-ever National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, a huge win for changing the way we all think about and address domestic violence because of its focus on prevention and a comprehensive multi-sector approach. Adoption of the national plan inspired me to share California's journey in fighting domestic violence. We were proud to contribute to the White House strategy, which aligns with our successful programs in California, offering valuable insights for others to follow and adapt.

For more than two decades, Blue Shield of California Foundation has collaborated with many organizations, including the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and Futures Without Violence, to address this issue statewide. Our focus has been on prevention and healing with an emphasis on supporting community-driven solutions and developing and testing new approaches for achieving large-scale impact. As president and CEO of the Foundation, I've witnessed firsthand how innovative strategies at both the national and local levels can help prevent domestic violence and create safer communities. My recent article published in Health Affairs Scholar provides details about California's approaches, which mirror those outlined in the national plan. I encourage you to read the full article, but here are some highlights:

Breaking the intergenerational cycle of violence  

In California, we've been proactive in supporting programs to break the cycle of domestic violence. We know that violence affects many generations in families, with children exposed to it being more likely to be in a relationship with domestic violence as adults. In fact, of all U.S. children, an estimated 28% are exposed to physical violence between parents by age 18; and those children are up to 4.4 times more likely to perpetrate violence as adults. We focus on a multigenerational approach to prevention by supporting and strengthening families and communities.

Addressing upstream factors

Domestic violence is a pervasive health equity issue for communities of color with low incomes who suffer disproportionately. Drivers of disparities include deeply rooted social issues, such as unemployment, poverty, gender-based wage inequality, and housing insecurity. A key part of our strategy is to prevent violence from happening in the first place by addressing these root causes.

We all have a role to play

The national plan stresses the need for collaboration across different sectors to prevent gender-based violence. In California, we bring together people from health care, criminal justice, economic, housing, social services, and employment sectors to address domestic violence comprehensively. Our experience shows that when multiple sectors work together, we create more impactful change.

Reflecting on my work at Blue Shield of California Foundation creating strategies for prevention and my previous experience at Nemours focused on child health and well-being, I’ve come to understand the profound impact of domestic violence on our communities and its pervasiveness. In California, 58 percent of adults report that they have been affected by domestic violence directly or indirectly through a friend or relative. I believe that if everyone considers domestic violence their responsibility, we could make more progress and end this devastating problem.

Domestic violence is everywhere, but it’s not inevitable. It is healable and preventable, and we all have a role to play to end it. I hope you’ll consider how your work intersects with domestic violence prevention and the role your organization can play.  By learning from our experiences, listening to survivors, and uniting efforts nationally, we can work towards ending domestic violence and creating safer, healthier communities for all.

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn on May 17, 2024. Join the conversation there.

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