Our nation’s bells have tolled for centuries to honor and remember, as well as to call us to action. At noon Wednesday, Aug. 31, bells will ring to honor all victims, families and communities harmed by domestic violence, including those murdered this summer.
The bells also call us to action as we struggle to find answers and build a world together that will not tolerate abuse. Please join us in this reflective moment and consider what action you will take.
In my role as executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, I have watched domestic violence advocates partner with survivors as they found their voices and built safer, sustainable lives. However, survivors and advocates, even in alliance with law enforcement and courts, cannot change things alone. It takes a community to set standards, stand up for values and create a safe, accountable world.
Most of us do not harm our loved ones — however we are more and more aware of the social, economic and human cost of domestic violence for us all. In our small, tight-knit Maine community we are never more than one relationship away from someone harmed by domestic abuse. We invite Maine’s silent majority to join their voices with ours, to speak out and take action. Simple actions can join us together in community and have surprisingly powerful outcomes.
Here are some simple actions at the personal, local and political level that build toward powerful change:
• Tell your state and national legislators loudly and clearly that you want to keep victims safer and hold batterers accountable. Tell them you will notice their work to make Maine safer.
• Ask if your work place has a domestic violence policy. Do you know what you would do if confronted with domestic violence in your workplace, as people were in the tragedies this summer? Model policies are available from MCEDV and the Maine Department of Labor.
• Ask your child’s school if they have a policy on relationship or dating violence. If not, ask them to develop one. Local domestic violence resource centers are glad to help. Check MCEDV.org for local program listings.
• Model respectful and loving relationships with your children. Remember, the single most protective factor for children and teens is a positive relationship with a parent. If you are struggling with these issues in your family, reach out for help. There are trained, caring advocates available to help 24-7. Call 866-834-HELP and get connected.
• Find out how to respond safely to a friend, work colleague, neighbor you think is in trouble. Bystander support and referral resources are available from your local domestic violence resource centers.
• As a man, be a clear ally and role model for respect, safety and accountability.
• Contribute by donation or volunteer efforts to your local domestic violence program, if you can. Victims’ requests for help have increased substantially as funds for services have been cut.
Please join us. A community’s strength comes from our ability to stand together in shared action. In John Donne’s famous words: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Julia Colpitts is executive director of the Maine Coalition To End Domestic Violence and vice chairwoman of the Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse. She also serves on the Maine Homicide Review Panel.