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Step #1: Awareness

Apparently last night was “Wing Wednesday” at a local pub in my neighborhood.

That means 35 cent buffalo wings like these…

Pretty good deal- don’t often eat wings, but good to know.

Lived in the area for all twenty-six years of my life and the news just finally traveled down the street.  Surprising, because most people close to me know I have quite a fondness for food and an equal affinity for bargains.

New York has pretty good food.  Okay, amazing food.  Went there this past weekend for a conference at Barnard College, Columbia University, called “Activism and the Academy.” Great experience.

Many of the panels I attended discussed the importance of using knowledge to advance activism and create social change.

Knowledge is important.  We all have it- most times from our own experiences.  And we could always use more…

The whole movement against domestic violence started with women sharing their knowledge, experiences and stories, then went from there.  People realized they weren’t alone and there was something much bigger going on here… that the problems in their home were the same problems happening in many other homes.

Today we can share through a variety of social media, which turns each one of our voices into a megaphone.

Voices that traditionally have been, and too often times still are, silenced.

And no matter what the agenda may be, it all comes down to awareness…

Awareness!

It’s the first step, which has both pros and cons.

Let’s start with the bad news…

There’s still a lot of awareness that needs to happen… ugh.

The recent news story that AWP Executive Director, Donna J. Byrne commented on in a previous blog, is a prime example.

After that whole incident, I was disheartened at the lack of the term “domestic violence” being used by the news to describe that situation.  In response to my frustration, a friend of mine questioned, “So, is regular violence more acceptable than domestic violence?”

“Well, it’s not about whether, ‘regular violence’ is more acceptable than ‘domestic violence,’” I said.  “Actually, ‘regular’ violence is domestic violence and that’s the problem.”

Current statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will be in an abusive relationship in her/his lifetime. Abuse is terrifyingly all too common.

By using the term “domestic violence” to label that story, or even this one for that matter, credits that statistic to real life, real faces, real experiences.  It allows people to understand how pervasive and rampant the issue is in our society.  But the most important part of the distinction, is how using those two words create power for change…

When a news story uses the words “random” or “regular” violence that my friend referred to, we can write it off.  We can say “wow, what a shame” and find a sense of comfort knowing there is no way it could have been prevented… no way someone could have possibly known.

But with domestic violence, we do know.

We do know what can happen and the danger that person (and sometimes their loved ones) can face.  At times, even after the relationship is over.

As a society, we currently accept domestic violence, because we don’t do what’s necessary to change it.  We won’t even simply use that term when warranted!

We so desperately need to name domestic violence when we see it.  On the news.  Across the street.  At the bar. We need to call it out for what it is- identify and acknowledge it. Have a vocabulary to talk about it. Understand the dynamics of how it functions and when it rears its ugly head, especially in the public eye. Recognize, define and label it. Expose it. Give it a face…

If we don’t do those things, how else is it ever going to end?

Deep breath.

Okay, so now that that fire’s been started- here’s the good news:

Awareness is simple.

Awareness is one person.

Awareness is two words.

Awareness is a blog post.

Awareness is a picture…

Awareness takes many forms and the catch is everyone has the power to create awareness.

I invite and encourage you, fellow blog reader, to use your voice and become part of the discussions on this blog, and other blogs.  To join AWP in raising awareness.

Participate in events we have happening in the community, like Saturday’s “Walk to Empower.” Party with us at our 35th Anniversary Celebration.

Or simply have a conversation with a friend, family member, the bartender.

Knowledge empowers people to be aware and understand social issues, or anything really…

Even if it’s about “Wing Wednesday” or some sale at a department store.

(It’s always exciting to get a good deal.)

So, create awareness every opportunity you have, because it can help save,

A dollar…

A life…

And maybe,  just maybe, the world.

Nicole Rinier,  AWP Community Educator

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