A lot of hope: Community Beyond Violence commemorates 40th anniversary and Domestic Violence Awareness Month
For Community Beyond Violence, this month marks not one but two milestones.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and also marks the 40th anniversary of the nonprofit organization, which offer resources for healthy relationships and works with community partners to help heal the effects of interpersonal violence.
Community Beyond Violence – formerly known as the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Coalition – began in 1978 when a group of Quakers recognized the need for a safe place for those being abused.
“We didn’t have any organization in town that helped victims of violence escaping danger,” said current Interim Executive Director Stephanie Fischer. “And so they had this underground coalition of people in the town who were giving up extra bedrooms or basements or granny units for people who needed a safe place to stay, and it kind of grew from there. We got nonprofit status in 1980 and then it was formalized.”
Last year, Community Beyond Violence served over 1,100 people in western Nevada County. These are unduplicated calls for service and do not include victims who contacted law enforcement without contacting the organization.
Fischer said Community Beyond Violence employs a two-prong approach to identifying and providing services for their clients.
“First, a crisis intervention program so people can call or walk in and all of our services are free, confidential, and non-discriminatory,” said Fischer. “A lot of people think that if they call us or talk to us that we automatically report them to law enforcement, but we are confidential.
“We are working really hard to prevent interpersonal violence before it even starts,” she said. “So (we’re) trying to catch the next generation and teach them about healthy relationships and healthy coping techniques and how to deal with anger.”
Niko Johnson, who served as executive director from 2009 to 2012 said one change she noticed in her involvement with domestic violence advocacy is the introduction of more services and shelters for victims and survivors.
“We’ve seen a movement over 40 years of shelters being built that can provide safe places for people and, as a society, we’re talking about it more,” Johnson said. “We’re realizing that this does happen – there is still a lot of secrets and shame attributed to domestic violence. As funds became available from the government and from community support organizations, people realized there is a deep need for people to feel safe in their relationships.”
Johnson said that in just the last 10 years, there has been a particular push for prevention.
“It’s encouraging people who are in healthy relationships to recognize when other people are not, and asking people to help them,” said Johnson. “It’s working with high schools and colleges to help them ask questions when you see something that might be suspicious. I’ve seen that shift where programs have gone beyond the person to asking the community at large and that, I believe, is going to turn the tides.”
In addition to everyday services, Community Beyond Violence has adopted a number of programs with unique purposes.
The Green Dot prevention program explains why people do not respond and teaches easily implemented solutions to interpersonal violence that fit each person’s comfort and safety level. Only when people have tools to safely intervene, can a culture of active bystanders that promote intolerance for violence can be created.
In addition, a Safe At Home program has been created, which Fischer said helps survivors of domestic violence safely register to vote. The service doesn’t require domestic violence victims to provide their actual mailing address, which helps them remain private and safe.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time for people to mourn those who we’ve lost to domestic violence and honor those who have survived,” said Fischer, “and empower survivors who may suffer in silence and honor those who work to end domestic violence.”
Statistics show one in three women, and one in four men, experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
“We call it interpersonal violence, it doesn’t have to be physical violence,” Fischer explained. “It can be verbal, emotional or psychological. There’s sexual violence, and also what we call economic violence and financial abuse as well. Any sort of behavior that gets the victim to be dependent and rely on the abuser or offender.”
This month Community Beyond Violence is joining the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence in offering a voter education campaign. A nonpartisan effort to help empower people to make informed choices about what candidates they are voting for, the campaign sent surveys to candidates in local races — specifically those for sheriff, board of education and city council.
“Questions we ask them (pertain to) where they stand on domestic violence issues,” Fischer said. “We are waiting to get all the responses and they will be posted on our website (today).”
Domestic violence can be prevented, both Fischer and Johnson said.
“Social norms need to change,” said Fischer. “There is a public tolerance for violence. We need everyone to get on board with acknowledging that violence is an issue, and saying something when they see behavior that tolerates that type of mentality and doing something about it.”
“The Green Dot program motto is, ‘You don’t have to do everything you just have to do something,’” Johnson said. “If we can educate people a little bit to recognize the signs that they are in a violent relationship and have them engage early on, there’s a lot of hope there.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4231.
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