Well, it's officially here -- the first ever "It's Time to Talk" Day to raise awareness of domestic violence by asking people to do something really simple. . . take a moment to talk about the issue.
There are some pretty cool things going on across the country today -- last night they lit the Empire State Building in recognition of the "Day," today there are police departments across the country with purple ribbons on their antennas, towns are having town hall meetings to "Talk," businesses are providing special materials and programs to employees, companies are hanging posters encouraging people to talk. . .all kinds of cool and creative things.
So, just talk, right? Well, it sounds easier than it may be for most people. Here are some ideas for getting the conversation started:
- If you plan to talk with someone you think is being abused, do so in private. Make sure the person who you think is doing the abuse is not present and make sure that both you and the survivor have the time available to talk. Focus on your concern for your friend's safety, and, if relevant, the safety of that person's children children. Something as simple as " I notice you've missed a lot of work lately, is everything OK at home?" may be a good way to start the conversation. Another suggestion is "I noticed you had some bruises and I'm worried about your safety. Is someone hurting you?" If these don't work and you really think this person is being abused, try again in a few days, just make sure that you are focusing on safety and not being judgmental.
It may also be helpful to say it this way "You know I really care about you, and you are important to me. I've been noticing some things lately (identify what warning signs you saw -- bruises, fighting with partner, fear of partner, partner controlling money, friends, family, clothing, etc.) and I am concerned about you. I would rather have you mad at me than anything bad ever happen to you, so I just want to ask you – are you safe in your relationship?" The power of talking with a friend in this way is that you make certain they understand you are coming from a place of caring and concern -- and that you are willing to risk them being mad at you -- which they may be-- for the sake of their safety.
- When talking to kids, it's important to also focus on the healthy aspects of a relationship and it's never too early to start! Let kids know that healthy dating includes mutual respect and non-violence. Let kids know that healthy relationships are relationships where conflict is resolved non-violently and teach kids ways to solve problems without violence. Discuss with kids the ways that men and women respect each other and discuss expectations about mutuality in a relationship. Two great resources for parents who want to talk to kids about healthy relationships can be found at http://www.girlsallowed.org and also at http://www.loveisnotabuse.com. Talking early and talking often is the motto for talking to kids about relationship violence.
- Get to know the resources in the community.
- Remember that there is help and hope for those that are abusive in relationships. If you are concerned that you may be abusive to your partner, take the time to check out the warning signs, and talk to a professional. There are special programs to address abusive behaviors in most communities -- and in many states, there are certified programs.
- Respect yourself, your partner and those around you and let people know how important you think healthy relationships are. Your actions will tell others just as much as your words.
Often, the hardest part of talking about domestic violence is simply getting started. Once you've figured out how to start a conversation, the rest may simply come naturally. Many domestic violence survivors don't seek help because they think that no one will believe them or that no one cares. Speaking up lets survivors know that you care, that you believe and that no one needs to face violence alone.
Let's get the conversation started today. . . and keep it going!