We asked and you answered. In the first week of our campaign we wanted to know how you saw domestic violence (DV) in your own community. Today, and every Friday in October, we’re sharing the answers we hear. Thank you for the great feedback — we’re excited to continue this conversation with you all month.
This October, we’re highlighting different perspectives around domestic violence as part of our How I See DV campaign. Our first contributor is the accomplished activist Malika Saada Saar, director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls).
My Work Taught Me How To Talk About Domestic Violence
I am a human rights lawyer for women and girls because of the domestic violence movement — a collection of people working to ending abuse. The domestic violence movement taught me how to name the violence done to women and girls. It gave me a language to frame the abuse in my own familial circles. And, the movement grounded me in how I wanted to make a life insistent on women’s dignity, power and safety.
The Movement, and Our Mission, Have Evolved
Since my college days of working at a domestic violence shelter, my belief in how the movement ought to move forward has changed significantly. For me, it is no longer only about the original framework of intimate partner violence against women.
The last reauthorization of our landmark Violence Against Women Act unearthed how our work has really progressed as a movement against gender-based violence. The original passage of VAWA in 1994 signaled a new discourse on violence that reshaped how we as a nation both acknowledged and framed spousal abuse. But, now almost twenty years later, VAWA includes language that names sexual violence and the need for victim services, redefines trafficking of children as a form of sexual violence, ends the impunity of non-Native persons who rape and assault women and girls on tribal lands, and recognizes that LGBT individuals are also victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Like VAWA, the domestic violence movement is powerfully expanding in its contemplation of violence to include the complex ways in which violence plays out in the lives of ALL women — and girls.
Domestic Violence Affects ALL Women and Girls
I deeply believe that we must continue to be expansive, broad, and diverse as a movement because the violence against us continues, unabated. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. That means more women are being harmed by violence than in car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
The lives of African-American women are even more diminished by violence, as African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white women. And, one out every three American women has been beaten, sexually coerced or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
The narrative of physical and sexual violence against women and girls continues to cut across the buffers of economic or educational privilege, and breeches every divide of race, class and ethnicity in America. It is a story whispered in the corners of mansions in affluent neighborhoods, in the best private schools and universities, behind the walls of women prisons and girl detention centers, and on the street corners where girls are sexually exploited and trafficked. Violence against women and girls remains a painfully American tale.
There Are New Forms of Abuse — and New Work to Be Done
Clearly, there is still so much more work to be done to address, name, and end violence against women and girls, especially when the violence has taken on new manifestations: cyber-stalking and harassment, digitized rape, the intersection between the hyper-sexualization of girls and violence. But I am made stronger when I consider the inheritance that we possess at this moment in the work.
The inheritance we possess as women who stand on the shoulders of so many who went before us, who fought for us, who won for us access to power, equality and full personhood. I think of the other inheritance too: the inheritance of those victims of rape, exploitation, abuse, and coercion whose lives were snuffed out because of the violence done to them because they were women and girls. It is the inheritance of all of this, the generational victories and sufferings that allow us to be here, with an abiding commitment to end violence against women and girls, on this domestic violence awareness month, and every month, in the years ahead.
About Our Contributor
Malika Saada Saar is Special Counsel on Human Rights at The Raben Group. She also serves as director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), an effort focused on the human rights of vulnerable girls in the U.S. Previously, Malika co-founded and was the executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a policy and advocacy organization for women and families. At Rebecca Project, Malika led the effort to shut down Craigslist sex ads that served as the leading site for the trafficking of children for sex, ended the federal practice of shackling pregnant mothers behind bars in U.S. prisons, and successfully advocated for millions in federal funding for treatment services for at-risk families. Newsweek and the Daily Beast have named Malika as one of “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
The Obama White House selected Ms. Saada Saar to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights.
Malika has been featured in the Daily Beast, Huffington Post, O: The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Politico, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Redbook Magazine, Essence, Tavis Smiley Show, BBC, ABC News, Good Morning America, CNN, and National Public Radio.
Last year, our 30 days of DVAM challenges had us talking about on-going wellness, evaluating our own behavior in relationships, building support systems and reaching out to friends and those in need.
This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re focusing even more on you and want to hear How You See DV (domestic violence) within your life. Join us for our How I See DV campaign throughout the month to share your own message.
DV affects lives in different ways. Maybe you’ve witnessed or experienced it firsthand in your own home. Maybe you know someone else who has. Perhaps you’re noticing it more often in pop culture and news, or you overheard someone loudly yelling at their partner in public and it left you feeling unsettled (unhealthy behaviors are red flags — we’re talking about those, too).
This month, join us in this collaborative effort to bring more visibility to the growing problem of domestic violence. DV affects a large percentage of Americans but it’s still a taboo subject. We need to bring this ‘behind closed doors’ problem out into the open and acknowledge how it affects our communities, our families and our lives.
We Need You
This October, we’re inviting everyone to speak up. Tell us about a time when you saw domestic violence firsthand. Tell us about the effects of DV in your workplace, friend circle or larger community. Tell us why it is important to you to speak up now.
- Connect with us on Twitter and on Facebook and like/share our images, statuses and blog posts with your networks. Don’t forget to engage in discussions on our blog and Facebook pages by leaving comments
- Tweet, Facebook, Vine, Instagram about the campaign, sharing your perspective on domestic violence by using the hashtag #SeeDV
- Create a video around the campaign using Vine, Instagram Video or Youtube, linking your content to ours with the hashtag #SeeDV
- Join us back here at the blog every Friday to see if one of your tweets, videos or photos has made our Friday round up
- Let us know what you or your community are doing for DVAM
Read Blog Posts By Special Guest Writers
We’re starting the conversation around different perspectives on domestic violence by featuring guest writers all October. We reached out to free-thinking community leaders that range from athletes to activists. Check out our blog all month to see differing views on this very important issue.
Need some inspiration? Check out our campaign landing page for ideas, as well as tweets and statuses you can use today.
HopeLine & Three Minutes for Three Million
This DVAM, we’re supporting HopeLine for Verizon. Sign up to host your own phone drive to help victims in need.
We also recently reached an important milestone at the hotline — we answered our three millionth call. To recognize this moment, we’re asking our friends to pledge Three Minutes for Three Million. Sign up and commit to spending three minutes actively strengthening a relationship in your life. This could mean spending three minutes calling a family member, catching up with a friend or even bonding with your significant other.
We look forward to spending this month raising awareness with you and sparking change by sharing how we #SeeDV.
We at the hotline care very deeply about the safety of anyone using our services. Please keep in mind that sharing personal stories could jeopardize your safety if you are currently in an abusive relationship, or have recently left an abusive partner. If you would like to discuss your unique situation and receive support, please call 1-800-799-7233.