How Can Advocates for Victims of Domestic Violence Raise Awareness of the Problem in Their Communities?
By Doug Clark, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Ray Rice and Greg Hardy have become the most valuable players of awareness about domestic violence.
The star football players are sitting out this season, and maybe longer, because of highly publicized assault cases where women were the victims.
Rice, in particular, focused national attention on the cause because, initially, his punishment for knocking out his fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator was a mere two-game suspension. Public opinion forced National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to order an indefinite suspension of the Baltimore Ravens running back — whom the team subsequently released.
The Carolina Panthers sidelined Hardy, despite his $13 million salary, until his second trial on assault charges, which has yet to take place.
When high-profile athletes attack a woman, the media and the public pay attention. That’s good, and not only because the publicity protects their victims. It also may warn other abusers that public tolerance of this behavior is very limited.
Unfortunately, not every instance of domestic violence will become a national story. Far from it. Most of the time, a simple assault won’t even be reported on an inside page of the local newspaper.
So, how can advocates for victims of domestic violence raise awareness of the problem in their communities?
They actually have some tools at their disposal.
One is simply to develop relationships with people who work in the media. They can contact reporters or editors and offer to comment with a local perspective on a national story or let them know that domestic violence is first and foremost a local story that happens in every neighborhood.
They can provide statistical evidence, which is available from local law-enforcement agencies. A large portion of police calls relates to domestic conflicts, even though news reporters might not recognize that or choose to make it a story. When the numbers are added up, however, domestic violence turns out to be a big story in every city.
There are other ways to quantify the problem. Recently, UNC Charlotte economics professor Stephen Billings authored a study that found domestic violence costs North Carolina $308 million a year. How many people think about domestic violence from a cost perspective, other than victims? But there are medical costs, lost work time costs, police costs, court costs and other expenses that truly make domestic violence everyone’s problem. These facts should be explained to the media.
Of course, providing access to victims is very valuable. It’s also difficult because most victims don’t want to be publicly identified. They also don’t want to compromise potential legal cases by talking with the media. Arrangements can be made to keep names out of the paper or to disguise a subject’s identity in a TV interview. Or former victims may feel secure enough in their new circumstances to go public. Personal stories can be very powerful.
Sadly, if the worst happens, domestic violence murder victims are always named in the papers. If speaking out might help, rather than hurt, before that point is reached, a victim might be brave enough to do that.
Finally, domestic violence is a concern all year long, not only during Domestic Violence Month. Advocates should interact with the media when they have something to say.
Thanks to a couple of football players, the public is listening.
Doug Clark is an editorial writer, columnist and blog author for the News & Record of Greensboro, N.C. He and his wife and have two sons and a granddaughter.