My closest personal encounter with domestic violence was during college, when a roommate and good friend locked herself in her room for hours. When she came out we noticed her swollen eyes (from crying) and a bump on her head. She finally confessed that she and her boyfriend had gotten into a fight and he had shoved her, knocking her into a wall and causing the bump. We were alarmed and shocked speechless. They had dated for several months and he was a good student, preparing for medical school. She was attractive, smart, and incredibly sweet. Who dared handle her like this? And why had she even wasted time with this jerk?
From our perspective, it was understood that this was unacceptable and that boyfriend had to go. But to our great amazement, despite having her choice of dates and concerned friends, she reconciled with him. For our part, we loathed him and rejoiced when they finally broke up. But none of us could believe it had happened to someone we knew so well. Wasn’t this brutish behavior the stuff of trailer parks? Weren’t the victims supposed to be powerless women, not girls in their prime who had the whole world open to them? And weren’t the perpetrators uneducated men in the classic tank shirt, not good-looking upperclassmen in honor societies?
Of course, none of those stereotypes is true. Domestic violence cuts across all socioeconomic and ethnic lines, and for some reason it’s often considered a “women’s issue” even though men are usually the abusers. The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham is addressing the problem of domestic violence through fundraising and grants. They intend to lower domestic violence by 25% in greater Birmingham by 2015.
Did you know that there are 34 separate municipalities in the greater Birmingham area with no system for sharing domestic violence arrest records? This, of course, hampers the ability to investigate and prosecute these crimes and hold perpetrators accountable. Enabled by fundraising led by the Women’s Section of the Birmingham Bar, the Women’s Fund is providing innovative solutions to this problem by supporting staff for the Jefferson County Family Violence Coordinated Community Response Team a YWCA court advocate, and the technology to connect courtrooms throughout the area. You can view their deliberate plan and progress thus far and donate at www.thewomensfundbham.org.
This post is part of a concentrated effort, Blogging About Violence, taking place October 7th and coordinated by the Terminal and NBC-13. It’s clear that the victims of domestic violence in Birmingham need our advocacy and the perpetrators need to be held accountable (you may have read about an unsettling encounter several months ago in which I witnessed domestic violence here in broad daylight). You can be part of the conversation by tuning in and by sharing the message through your own social media outlets.