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The Culture Must Condemn Domestic Violence

An international spotlight has been on domestic violence in recent months, with the focus on the NFL, Ray Rice and his abusive treatment of Janay Palmer Rice. The NFL’s policies regarding players involved in domestic abuse cases has come under public scrutiny and found to be inappropriate and very often, unenforced. While we applaud the NFL’s addition of stringent sanctions and financial support for national domestic violence services and prevention programs, these steps must be a beginning.
As a community, our attention cannot be short-lived in addressing the challenges faced by victims and survivors if there is to be lasting change.

69 victims—adults and children—of domestic violence were assisted by community agencies in the USVI on September 17, 2013.*
446 victims—adults and children—of domestic violence were assisted through WCSC, from January to June 2014
Domestic violence is a societal issue that affects families everywhere, in every walk of life. Victims are brutalized every day in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and many suffer in silence because they are shamed by cultural norms, afraid of retaliation, afraid that no one will believe them.
We must work together to create a culture that consistently condemns domestic violence, with safe spaces for healing. Education on power and control and what constitutes healthy relationships is crucial, so that silence and ignorance do not make it easier for abuse to thrive in families. Anyone who does not know should learn about the cyclical nature of domestic violence and factors that make it difficult and dangerous for victims to leave. We must stop victim-blaming and put the onus on perpetrators for their behavior. Support for community programs that offer assistance to victims and survivors must be ongoing. Crisis intervention with trained and adequate staffing must be available. Legal protections and advocacy must focus on the needs of survivors.
Batterer intervention programs to address abusive behaviors must be funded and operational. Men must be involved in educational and preventive measures that include redefining manhood and eliminating sexist beliefs. Both genders must collaborate to permanently change thoughts, actions and how healthy relationships are formed.
Not everyone is a batterer, victim or survivor. But domestic violence touches every life, and because it is often perpetuated in secrecy, that connection may be closer than you think. We cannot end domestic violence if we continue to believe it is not our problem in our community, and that it can be eliminated without everyone’s participation. Only action will mean “No More.”
*Source: nnedv.org, Domestic Violence Counts 2013 Census Report
Women’s Coalition of St. Croix

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