As many of you know, a horrible act of domestic violence occurred in my hometown on Tuesday. Many of you also know how closely this story has affected members of my family.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about what happened, and I know I’m not alone. Even after hours of reflection and talking about it with family in my hometown and friends elsewhere, it remains impossible to find the sense in this act. It remains impossible to believe any good can come of it. It remains almost impossible to find any comfort at all, in the face of such tragedy.
But I just read an article related to this story about the work of TurningPoint, an organization for victims of domestic and sexual violence in my hometown. Apparently, “victims and potential victims of domestic violence…have been calling TurningPoint…in droves since the killings. On Thursday and Friday, the center had to add another staff member to help field all the calls — a first (for the organization).”
Since Tuesday, more people than ever before are seeking help from TurningPoint, hoping to prevent their family from being the next one featured on the local news.
If there can be no other comfort, let’s remember that this event is a wake-up call. Many of us were shocked and stunned and horrified to learn about violence as grisly as what happened Tuesday.
But domestic violence is a daily reality for millions of women and children and men across the United States. It’s horrifying, but it shouldn’t be stunning. It is real, it is relatively common, and it is happening close to us. In big cities, in small cities. In your town, in my town. Across town, across the street.
Here are some national statistics from the website of the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Oregon:
One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. Studies suggest that between 3.3 – 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
It’s easy to feel paralyzed by the weight and scale of awful national statistics. But I have found comfort to think about what can be done to make a difference about domestic violence on a local scale. In particular, I think of the good work—the essential work—of local community organizations that prevent domestic abuse and help victims of it. From 2008 until 2010, I had the opportunity to work at the Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley, a child abuse prevention organization that provides free home visits and parent education for families with children up to age six in western Wisconsin.
I can attest to how sincere, effective, and cause-committed the staff and board and donors of this organization are. And I am tremendously grateful to know, in the wake of this tragedy, that they are out there. They are out there visiting people’s homes, helping people become better parents, and helping children get a stronger start in life. Ultimately, their work is making remarkable headway in strengthening local families, some of which might otherwise be at risk for domestic violence.
If you think preventive work like that of the Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley sounds important, consider this: for its first twelve years of existence, including my tenure as development coordinator, the Family Resource Center didn’t receive a cent of government funding. Even today, government grant funds are extremely limited. Much of the organization’s budget is covered by philanthropic support from private foundations, individual donors, and local businesses.
Non-profits like the Family Resource Center and TurningPoint fill incredibly valuable—perhaps the MOST valuable—local community needs, but they need the help of local community members to keep up the good work.
Which leads me to my request for everyone reading this: Please, do something for the local organization or organizations that support families in your area. You might donate (remember how many of these organizations work with few or no tax dollars). You might volunteer. You might simply take the time to read their website or newsletter to learn more about their work, who they help, and how they are funded. You might also share this blog post and encourage others to do the same.
I just made online donations to both TurningPoint and the Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley. (Donate to the Family Resource Center St. Croix Valley here; donate to TurningPoint here.) I am also about to look up local organizations in Washington that do similar work and see if I can volunteer or perhaps help with fundraising. Since I don’t know which organizations do similar work here, I plan to Google “Washington, DC domestic violence resources.” If you don’t know which organizations in your area do this kind of work, you might try a similar Google search.
Study after study reveal that a stable, secure home life during childhood is the single most important factor influencing a child’s long-term potential as an adult: that includes her potential to contribute positively to society and her potential to achieve personal happiness. Many of us are fortunate enough to know that this is true even without reading those studies. We were lucky enough to live that truth. But our privilege comes with a responsibility to remember: not everyone is so lucky.
I really hope you’ll take the time to volunteer with, learn more about, or donate to a local organization serving families in your community. Let’s not let the horror and grief we feel about this story emotionally swamp us to the point that we are paralyzed and hopeless. I think we have a responsibility to honor this family’s loss by doing something to help other families.