DV Awareness: Start with YOUR Constituency

As posted on the Domestic Violence Awareness: Making Advocacy Accessible Facebook Cause (to which I am a contributor).

Start with YOUR Constituency

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is commonly known among advocates and allies who work to eliminate violence in relationships and families. Unfortunately, it may not be as well known among the general public. Many an advocate has spent hours creating a well designed, well planned public awareness event for October, only to find themselves “singing to the choir” or speaking to their existing constituency.

Raising awareness among people who do not know much about domestic violence is challenging but not impossible. The issue is getting them to the table. A good place to start is with your existing constituency – family members, friends, co-workers, social networking groups, your faith-based or spiritual community – and using them as a conduit to reach more people.

Listed below are some ideas to branch out and help more people understand and care about domestic violence during October and through the year.
Quick, Easy Steps

1. Wear a domestic violence awareness purple ribbon or pin. When someone asks you what it means, be prepared to explain what it symbolizes and to talk about why ending domestic violence is so important to you. Check out the album on this site to see a variety of DV awareness pins worn by advocates, survivors, and volunteers. To be considered for our album, send a picture of your favorite and/or unique DV awareness purple ribbon pin to nrcdvap@hotmail.com.

2. If you know someone who has survived an abusive relationship, tell her/him you’re glad they are safe. If you know someone who is in an unsafe relationship, tell her/him that you’re concerned about her/his health and happiness. Offer to listen without judgment, validate their feelings, and let them know that you believe them. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more ways on how to talk to a loved one, friend, or co-worker who feels unsafe in their relationship.

3. Post a status update, Tweet, or send a quick email announcing that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month,with links to the NRCDV’s Domestic Violence Awareness Project website, http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at http://www.ncadv.org.

4. Place a DV awareness ribbon magnet on your vehicle.

5. During October, pay attention to the media you purchase, listen to, view, or create, and avoid any that demean women, send misogynist messages, or glorify violence and abuse of any kind. Ask your family and friends to do the same, and get together to talk about what you have learned. Challenge each other to stay on track, and continue this practice throughout the year.

6. Leave a DV program pamphlet, brochure, or palm card in a place where someone who needs it may find it, such as the restroom at your favorite restaurant, your local gym, the nail shop, beauty salon or barbershop.

Take It a Step Further

Pledge Cards
In your office or place of business, ask your co-workers or patrons to sign a pledge card stating that they will share information about domestic violence and where to seek help with at least one person who is not familiar with the issue. Post the pledge cards at your office. Have a stack of program pamphlets, brochures, or palm cards available for pledges to take with them, most DV programs will provide these materials free of charge.

Coffee/Tea Time
Find a cozy coffee house in your city or town and ask them to host a “Coffee with Advocates” morning hour. Ask the shop for a discount or to make a donation of proceeds (monetary or in-kind) to the local domestic violence program/shelter in your area. Invite your constituents to take a morning break and bring a family member, friend or co-worker with them for a cup of coffee or tea. Let advocates speak from the heart about the work they do within their agencies while talking with community members and garnering new supporters to end domestic violence. Be sure to have materials available for supporters and those passing through to take home.

Pay Day
In conjunction with the Finance or Payroll Department at your place of employment, ask to include a pamphlet, brochure, or palm card on domestic violence and a copy of the workplace violence policy as a reminder to employees. What? Your place of employment doesn’t have a workplace violence policy? Well, this would be a perfect time to form a task force to create a policy. For more information and sample policies, check out the following websites, Peace at Work: http://www.peaceatwork.org or the Corporate Alliance to End Domestic Violence: http://www.caedv.org.

Sunday Sermons
Ask your faith or spiritual leader to devote a sermon, service, prayer watch, or study session to the issue of domestic violence prevention. The FaithTrust Institute offers a variety of resources for many faith-based and spiritual groups including sample sermons that can be modified to fit the needs of specific communities.

Volunteer Your Way

Volunteer your techie skills: Are you tech savvy when it comes to creating spreadsheets or setting up databases? Do you understand the difference between HTML and CSS? Can you design web pages or have an eye for graphics? If so, you might like to sign up for Mozilla Service Week, September 14th – 21st. For an entire week, techies will donate their skills and time to various nonprofits and organizations nationwide.

If you can’t make Mozilla Service Week, Grassroots.org similarly pairs nonprofits with volunteered tech and business services any time of the year. Better yet, take initiative and contact your local shelter or DV agency to offer your services. While each agency will have dedicated IT staff, there may be special, time limited projects that they would love to have you help with. Here are some ideas to get you started:
• update the agency logo
• redesign agency brochures, literature, or marketing materials
• create power points for agency training or community presentations
• design materials for the agency DVAM or victim’s memorial event

Volunteer your creativity: If you’re more of the creative type, there’s always an opportunity to engage survivors and their families in activities that are healing, interesting and fun. Photography, jewelry-making, painting, music and dance are all fabulous art forms that can help ease the stress of shelter living. Local programs and statewide coalitions may also be interested in photographs or artwork for their annual report, conference, or convention materials. That’s great exposure for your art and an easy way to contribute your time.

Collect nontraditional items: Lead a campaign at work, school, your civic organization, or faith-based community to collect nontraditional necessities for your local DV program and shelter. Sometimes, donation rooms in shelter can be overrun with soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and the like. However, there are many other items that are essential to daily living that are inexpensive and easy to purchase while doing your regular grocery shopping. Donate items, such as:
• non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products
• bath tissue, paper towels, gloves for cleaning
• brooms, dust pans, mops, buckets
• feminine hygiene products
• hair care products and accessories for various ethnicities
• shoestrings and belts for children
• laundry baskets, detergent, fabric softener
• office supplies (copy paper, file folders, staplers, paper clips, etc.)
• gas cards, fare cards, tokens, or passes for public transportation

Start by calling your local program to find out what items they truly need, that they don’t typically receive, and then go get it! As a bonus, volunteer your time to help sort through the donations that shelters are bombarded with during popular giving seasons like Christmas.

The possibilities for raising awareness about domestic violence are endless. One of the most important things to remember is that advocacy and volunteerism can take many forms. Think about how you can turn activities that you already enjoy into opportunities to raise awareness of the importance of safe, healthy relationships and families. You’ll find that you are more than capable of making a difference and you’ll soon be on your way to creating awareness ideas while doing what you love. Share and post your ideas about how to combine your hobby or passion with anti-violence advocacy.