Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Domestic Violence and the Holidays

So -- it's the holidays and you will be around family and friends that you may not usually see. And what if you see something that you are concerned about? What if you think someone you care about may not be in a safe relationship? Here is the big difficult question:

"What do you say to someone if you are concerned that they may be in an abusive relationship?"

Here is one pretty good way that I've found to talk with someone -- granted this is my style and everyone has a different style, but it goes something like this:

"You know I really care a lot about you. I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately, and that (and you would fill in here the other things you've noticed -- like that the person seems afraid of their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, has unexplained injuries, seems isolated, etc.). I would rather be wrong or have you mad at me for asking than ever have anything bad happen to you so I just have to check in with you and ask -- are you safe in your relationship?"

Because really, if you think about it, that is the point, isn't it? You WOULD rather be embarrassed or feel uncomfortable asking, or be wrong rather than have something bad happen to a friend of yours and not say something.

And -- so what if your friend tells you that he or she is fine? Then say "Hey, that is great. But if you ever decide you aren't ok, I want you to know my door is always open." And you may also want to add, "And if you were ever concerned that I was not safe, I would hope you would ask me the same question, right?" Because the point is, if we really have one another's backs, we should be able to ask each other these questions.

And then if you can, you may want to check in again with your family member or friend again in a few weeks just to see how things are going. People don't always tell you right away when they are in a relationship that is not safe or good for them. It takes time and it is not easy.

For help or advice anytime, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or for teens, check out the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline -- on the web at http://www.loveisrespect.org/ or at 1-866-331-9474.

It never hurts to ask -- and it may help change or save the life of someone you care about.

Friday, December 07, 2007

What IS the Media's Role Regarding Domestic Violence Reporting?

This is one of the questions being discussed at the fourth international conference in Turkey this week. You may be surprised it is being spearheaded by a newspaper group. They want to discuss whether or not (and I quote here) “The Turkish media is dominated by close-minded men who can't realize the gravity of domestic violence and thus fail to stand up to it. Whether the ‘male-domination’ paradigm is being replaced by more open minds and concerned manner of news making will also be discussed.”

People are always amazed when I tell them that one of our CAEPV member companies is the Hurriyet newspaper group in Turkey. These conferences on domestic violence have been held annually since 2004, when Hürriyet launched its "No to Domestic Violence" (Aile İçi Şiddete Son) campaign. With an impressive logo of an eye in tears, the project aimed at both helping women who are persecuted by their husbands, and raising consciousness on this serious problem, which has been one of the gravest yet rarely spoken maladies in Turkish society. I was part of this conference in 2006, and we talked with businesses in Turkey about how to start their own workplace programs, and to start a “Corporate Alliance” in Turkey.

Temuçin Tüzecan, the communications director of Hürriyet has big plans – he wants to bring 25 of the largest companies in Turkey on board!

Hurriyet has established a 24/7 call center, which is an emergency line for victims of domestic violence. Just a few weeks ago the call center saved the life of an 18-year old wife in Ağrı, who was almost freezing to death while hiding in a barn, Tüzecan said. "She was escaping her family-in-law," he said. "They, for some bizarre reason, had been infuriated with her and had decided to punish her."

The "End to Domestic Violence" campaign also focuses on the root causes of this problem, and this year's conference topic, the media, is right on target. "The language that the media uses while reporting such incidents is crucial," Tüzecan said. In the past there used to be rhetoric in the Turkish media, which did not regard the problem seriously enough. It rather sometimes used a tone that treated domestic violence as if it were a normal fact of life, even a funny one. This has changed to a great extent, Tüzecan said. Campaigns like that of Hürriyet have raised consciousness. Moreover, “there is now a younger generation of editors and reporters who don't think within the old machoistic ways,” he said.

I think to myself – how much different is that than here in the US? Those of you following the Stacy Peterson case may be dismayed (and rightly so) by the lack of emphasis in the media on the issues surrounding domestic violence. CAEPV Board Member Anne Glauber wrote a thoughtful piece in Women’s eNews about her personal experience trying to engage the national media.

However – I DO want to congratulate Bill Cameron and WLS News/Talk Radio 890 AM in Chicago for taking time to actually devote a show to the issues surrounding domestic violence that were stirred up as a result of this situation. If you want to listen to the podcast featuring Cook County State’s Attorney Deputy Chief Anita Alvarez and myself, click here for the link.

So – we all have a long way to go on this issue. I look forward to the day that there are more media outlets like WLS Radio in Chicago taking this issue seriously, and more companies like Hurriyet that are looking at the role they have externally and internally in addressing the issue.

As always, for anyone who is interested, our website at http://www.caepv.org/ has lots of great resources to help.