Coordinated Community Response Column

Every year here at HELP of Door County, Inc., we make it our mission to explain domestic abuse does not discriminate. Abuse crosses all barriers of race, religion, age, gender and socio-economic background, so this year, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, HELP of Door County is focusing on men.

We ‘re looking for support from men in our community to help us demonstrate that domestic violence is not somebody else’s business – it’s everybody’s business. It impacts children, families, the work place, and entire communities.

This month, in addition to displaying purple ribbons for Domestic Violence awareness, you will also see local men taking a stand and making public statements about ending violence against women and children.

HELP of Door County, your local domestic abuse awareness and prevention organization, is taking the national campaign of “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” and bringing it to Door County with the “A Walk in Her Shoes” event in downtown Sturgeon Bay on Oct. 5 at 6 pm.

As part of HELP’s mission to advocate for social change, we recognize the importance of including men in the movement to end violence towards women and children.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, HELP and other domestic violence agencies across the country provide services to men as well as women and children. However, the percentage of women victims is so disproportionate (7 percent of all clients seen at HELP in 2011 were male), and the lethality of the abuse toward women victims is so much higher that we emphasize awareness about abuse perpetrated on women and children.

As the national “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” campaign mission sates: “Gender based violence does not just affect women. It affects the men who care about them, their families, their friends, their coworkers, and their communities.”

Domestic abuse is not an issue which only affects women.

One in four American women have been victims of domestic abuse – this could be your mother, your sister, your friend, your girlfriend, your wife, your coworker, or your daughter.

But how many men are abusers? This is a question that never gets asked. Victim advocates around the world are working to re-shift this focus – to demonstrate awareness of violence towards women from a preventative and accountability standpoint.

The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) is an international organization of men, whose focus is on ending violence against women. I would like to share WRC’s “Six Things Men Can do to Take a Stand,” and challenge you this October – and every month – to practice these goals yourself:

1. BELIEVE. This issue is real. Believe survivors’ experiences. Your support will make a difference. Tell them ‘it’s not your fault.’ No one asks for or deserves to be sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed.

2. TRUST YOUR GUT. Don’t walk on by if you witness harassment or an assault on the street or anywhere: assess the risk, then intervene and confront or defuse the situation. If you need to, ask for help or call 911.

3. OFFER SUPPORT. Ask if you can help people who have experienced violence and connect them to support services. Help the organizations that support survivors of violence.

4. IT STARTS WITH YOU. Lead by example. Question your own attitudes and behaviors and how they may disrespect or harm women. Sexist language and street harassment all contribute to a culture of violence.

5. IT STAYS WITH HIM. Be a role model. Talk to your family, friends and co-workers about the roles they can play in ending violence against women. Challenge men and young men in your life to make a difference!

6. LEARN MORE AND GET INVOLVED. HELP of Door County has the resources you need to get involved and make a difference in your community.

If you have further questions about how to be involved, or how to get help, please contact HELP of Door County, Inc. at 920.743.8818 or the Sexual Assault Center at 920.746.8996.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.