Domestic violence has no place in Ohio. That's the guiding vision for those gathering throughout the state in October to illuminate Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every year since 1981, advocates and allies striving to end domestic violence in our homes and our communities take time to celebrate the survivors, mourn the victims and recognize that we have broken the silence to reach millions of victims through support and services.
Having led the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Ohio's statewide coalition, for the past 17 years, I have seen first hand how the important gains have been realized. The biggest advances come when community members demonstrate support for survivors and service providers.
Effectively addressing and ultimately ending domestic violence requires a collaborative effort involving every part of our community. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let us all recommit to ensuring domestic violence has no place in Ohio. Here are 10 ways all of us can address and prevent domestic violence and create communities of safety and support:
First, with the passage of HB 19 in 2010, every school is required to provide education on dating violence to students in grade seven through 12. Talk to your local high school principal and school board to ensure that they are implementing this legislation in your school district.
Second, the Institute of Medicine has recently recommended that health care providers screen for domestic violence, recognizing the potential health impact of domestic violence and the importance of prevention on future health concerns. If your physician is not screening, talk to him or her about the importance of screening. For materials for health care professionals, contact the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.
Third, victims say that one of the necessities in remaining free of violence is a stable income, yet a May survey by Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence suggests that 64 percent of domestic violence victims say their ability to work is affected by the abuse. Does your employer have a policy on domestic violence in the workplace?
If not, ask your employer about forming a committee to consider such a policy. Contact your state representative to support HB 105 (sponsored by state Rep. Denis E. Murray, D-Sandusky), which would allow victims to take unpaid work time to secure a protection order without fear of reprisal.
Fourth, domestic violence programs in Ohio are reporting cuts in funding while experiencing demands for services. Consider having a group you belong to host a fundraiser for your local domestic violence program, or hold a "shower" for needed items.
Fifth, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network's survey of domestic violence programs found that there was at least a $5 million lack of civil legal services for victims in Ohio every year. The civil legal needs of survivors of domestic violence cover a wide range from immediate needs for safety, such as securing a civil protection order; longer-term issues, including divorce and custody; to holistic needs, including financial cases, bankruptcy, foreclosure and credit, as many abusers engage in financial abuse in addition to physical and emotional abuse. If you are an attorney, consider providing pro bono civil legal assistance in your area of expertise through your local bar association, local legal aid or ODVN.
Sixth, many victims of domestic violence are reluctant to leave because they must leave their pets behind. Abusers are known to control their victims through the abuse of beloved animals. Consider providing foster care for a victim's pet while they are in an emergency shelter, or ask your vet or animal care provider to consider fostering a victim's pet. Ask your state senator to support SB 25 (sponsored by state Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton), a bill that passed the state House of Representatives that would allow pets to be included on protection orders.
Seventh, break the silence. If you believe you have a friend in an abusive relationship, tell them you know what's happening and that they do not deserve to be abused. Be supportive and remember, your role is to provide information and alternatives.
Eighth, start prevention early. Purchase a book, game or poster for the children you love that highlights cooperation and non-violence.
Ninth, engage and mentor our young men in respectful, non-violent relationships. Consider becoming a facilitator for the Men of Strength Club, or incorporating the Coaching Boys into Men materials from Futures with Violence into your work as a coach.
Tenth, pause and remember ... the victims who still live with domestic violence and pledge to take action this month. Wear a purple ribbon, display a purple light or attend a vigil or event in your community. Pause and remember that together we can build communities of non-violence and prevent future violence.
The Ohio Domestic Violence Network will continue to work in partnership with survivors, Ohio's domestic violence programs, multi-disciplinary professionals who address domestic violence, policy makers and communities beyond October to ensure that victims have access to the services they need to end the violence in their lives and to engage in critical prevention initiatives and policy reform to ultimately end domestic violence.
Please join us in making the vision of peace and safety in all of our homes a reality. For information, visit ODVN's website, www.odvn.org.
(Neylon is executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.)