We Are All Connected
In October of each year, we rededicate ourselves to ending domestic violence in partnership with you—survivors, family members, friends, community leaders, service providers, researchers, educators, collaboratives, healthcare providers, culture change activists, members of faith communities, funders and many, many others who are working together to end domestic violence in our lifetime. We come to this work both as professionals who are fulfilling our Foundation’s mission “to make California the healthiest state and end domestic violence” and as human beings whose lives and communities have been shaped by domestic violence, and who share a vision for greater justice, equity, and peace for couples and families.
This summer, we surpassed a milestone, having contributed over $100 million to domestic violence services and prevention since 2002. While we’re extremely proud of the effort, commitment and dedication that amount represents, we also know that the entire social landscape that enables domestic violence also needs to change and we are excited to be a part of this work at a time when there are so many bright signals that the landscape is changing.
Today, we see shifting cultural attitudes transform into movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp that create new partnerships and alliances around the world. We, along with others, are identifying opportunities to adapt our social infrastructure through efforts like the Gender Justice Funder’s Network and the Criterion Institute’s work to defund violence against women, both of which, we support. We are seeding new approaches to domestic violence prevention like restorative justice, design thinking and multisector collaboration, to wrap our collective arms around this social issue. We’re funding research to study the root causes of domestic violence in childhood, adolescence and in the social fabric, so that we can help children become adults who are not only free of the cycle of violence, but also, part of the solution. Most of all, we see and honor the unwavering passion and dedication of the domestic violence field, survivors, family members and communities who continue to drive this work toward peace and safety in our most intimate relationships.
To open this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, our staff are sharing how we too, are connected to domestic violence.
“I never thought it would happen to me”—these words came from a speaker sharing her story at a domestic violence awareness luncheon hosted by CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse). She was a highly accomplished Harvard graduate and one of the most eloquent speakers I’d ever heard. Her recounting of the unimaginable abuse she suffered at the hands of her partner forever changed my perception of what a survivor looks like. I joined the board of CORA, and as I committed to the work of ending domestic violence in our local community, I heard many more stories from survivors, several of whom served on our board. It was eye opening to see how we are all touched not only by violence within relationships but also within families. At a recent board retreat, we went around and shared what brought us to this work, and people opened up about experiencing child abuse, witnessing domestic violence as a child, and being caught in the intergenerational cycle of violence in their families. What used to feel like a faraway issue is something that hits close to home for all of us, and we need to work together to break the cycle.
I grew up in a cluster of five little farmhouses in Southern California. Our backyards and side yards were all connected. The neighbor behind us, a young woman, brought her boyfriend home to live with her. Almost immediately, we saw her less and less. The boyfriend built a tall chain link fence around the house and padlocked the gate, then he brought home two aggressive dogs, which terrified all of us, including the young woman who lived there. Our parents wouldn’t let us play in the backyard and told us to stay away from them because he had guns in the house. When she became pregnant, it became very clear to all that she was in danger. My parents spoke to the landlord, who, fortunately, also happened to be her grandfather. The dogs were removed and soon after, the boyfriend moved out too. Once he was gone, there was a sense of relief in that little community, it felt like a raincloud had lifted, but in the sunlight, I think we could see more clearly, how dangerous that situation had been. My parents started donating vegetables from our farm to the local women’s shelter. For the first few years, we dropped boxes off at the administrative office in an office park, and then later, at the residence where I saw kids just like me. In college, I volunteered for the domestic violence hotline and worked in schools to prevent family violence. My parents never stop donating to the women’s shelter.
I will never forget the first time I went to my doctor for an annual check-up after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Besides being free (yay!), this appointment was different in another way that was significant to me and millions of American women. After running through my vital signs and medications, my nurse practitioner asked if I was in a relationship. This caught me a bit off guard, but after I responded yes, she asked if I felt safe in that relationship. A big smile immediately came across my face as she asked more details about my relationship – I realized that she was conducting a domestic violence screening that was now a free service as part of a woman’s preventative exam. As she finished her questions I excitedly shared the work of Blue Shield of California Foundation on domestic violence and health care partnerships, and asked her a string of questions about their emergency plans, referral sources, and any changes they had seen since beginning screening. I’m glad to know that I can always turn to my trusted health care providers for screening, brief counseling, and referral. And, I am excited to see the connections forming between domestic violence agencies and health care providers – there is endless opportunity for these partnerships to make relationships and communities safer.
I’m a native San Franciscan with Native Hawaiian roots and was lucky enough to spend most of my formative years in these two places. As I reflect back, I’m reminded of how I was exposed to domestic violence through friends and family members. I remember hearing stories about domestic violence in older generations and how other family members intervened. I saw childhood friends beaten by their parents, and you always knew how a night of heavy drinking could end with violence. As children, we were told to “not to get involved”, “don’t ask questions”, “it’s none of our business”, or “it’s time to go now”. I never understood why we weren’t told to get involved and stop the violence.
Fast forwarding to today. As a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, our community is our family, and our family was asked to help a friend’s daughter who was involved in a domestic violence situation. We took her in and spent time trying to help her understand why she was in danger, but I knew she couldn’t hear me. After she went back to him, we all felt helpless and feared for her and her family, and then we got the call we were all dreading, this beautiful young woman, full of life, was no longer on this earth. I, we, our entire community, was devastated. As we continue to struggle together, I am grateful for the work we do at the Foundation to prevent domestic violence. But what inspires me most is the dedication and passion of the people--our staff, our grantees, and the domestic violence field--who work tirelessly to end domestic violence in every community. We are all part of the same community. Thank you for all that you do. This blog is dedicated to everyone who has been touched by domestic violence.