Our Voice: Domestic violence cure illusive but not hopeless

October 29, 2013 

Preventing domestic violence is a complex puzzle with lots of pieces. It includes law enforcement, the courts, our schools, community support groups and attentive friends and relatives.

Some of it can only be achieved at a governmental level. For example, domestic violence court dedicated to dealing with these crimes would be a great help in the Mid-Columbia.

Although domestic violence may be a problem that none of us can fix, we all can do something about it.

Statistics tell us that you know someone who is in an abusive relationship. If you don't know who that is, it's because she is good at masking it or you don't really want to see it.

But chances are that long before someone calls 911, she is going to call her mother or girlfriend or co-worker.

According to Erinn Gailey, program director at Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties, "We are all first responders for domestic violence."

Each of us needs to educate ourselves on how to meet that responsibility.

What do you say when you find out someone is in trouble? Where can she go for help?

We need to be ready with real answers, not gut reactions. Sometimes well-meaning intentions are the wrong course of action.

This is basic knowledge for the whole community.

But it doesn't really "prevent" domestic violence.

An even more important piece of the solution obligates us to educate the next generation. That's where prevention has hope.

Kids -- and adults -- need to learn what a healthy relationship looks like, especially if it's not being modeled at home.

Boys need to know what it means to be a "real man" and girls need to expect that in a relationship.

Both genders need to learn the meaning of trust and respect.

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips from the Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties' website dvsbf.org.

w Listen, talk, listen, talk, listen, listen, talk and listen more.

w Talk about teen dating violence regularly.

w Demonstrate respect -- listen to our youth and build a relationship.

w Address all derogatory language, behavior and humor used by students and adults.

w Promote gender equality.

w Talk about what healthy relationships look like.

w Talk about what kind of help and resources are available.

w Talk about what teens see in the media and pop culture.

The ills of our society exist because, to some degree, we tolerate them. Domestic violence is an especially senseless crime. It's unhealthy for the abused and the abuser.

In the end, everyone wants to feel loved. It's a basic human need. We need to know how to show and accept love in appropriate ways.

The solution only will come from a comprehensive approach.

It's a huge task, but in the meantime, each of us can be doing something to give small and meaningful help to each other.

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