Preventing Family Violence

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It’s October, the month that is nationally designated for generating awareness and raising action around family violence, a critical issue that undermines the full vitality of our community.

At Family Services, this month-long emphasis is carried out in daily, year-long action.

Family Services strives to remove the barriers that prevent all children and families from reaching their potential and contributing to a sustainable community. That’s why the Forsyth County agency has set in motion a movement to create a community in which all children and families are free from the threat of violence.

Family violence has many names: domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, sexual assault. It occurs across all racial/ethnic groups and classes and results in both immediate and lifelong physical and emotional health consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-third of US women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and one in seven men. More than three million children witness family violence in their homes every year. Last year, more than 128,000 North Carolina children were referenced to agencies for abuse and neglect; nearly 32,000 were confirmed victims.

Prevention is the best defense. And it begins with local people coming together to create and sustain positive change.

In 2014, Family Services assembled leaders in the domestic violence and child abuse fields to launch a community-wide initiative to eliminate family violence in our city. The team of experts developed a Family Violence Prevention (FVP) plan of action that will be implemented across a wide range of community organizations in Forsyth County.

“We believe that ideas for eliminating family violence exist within all sectors of our community, including business, faith-based, health, education, law enforcement, media and the arts. Once implemented, these ideas from across the community will have the power to change attitudes, practices, and community norms, which are the ultimate basis for achieving lasting, sustainable reductions in family violence,” says Family Services President and CEO Bob Feikema, who convened the family violence prevention committee.

Ten organizations have pledged to participate: The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Forsyth County Department of Public Health, Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, Hispanic League, Love Out Loud, Salem College, United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, Winston-Salem State University, and Family Services, which will sponsor a group of victims/survivors of family violence.

Each group of 8 to 12 members will meet for a series of five, “dialogue-to action” sessions to identify what their organization can do to contribute to a reduction in the incidence of family violence. In early 2017, all of the groups will convene for a Community Action Forum, during which action agendas will be adopted for the coming year.

The initiatives from these groups will be an important start to creating the kind of community in which all children and families can thrive. Yet, eliminating the threat of violence in our city will require participation from every citizen.

So, here are a few ways in which you can begin today to help stop family violence:

  1. Promote respect for all people; do not tolerate discrimination.
  2. Teach peace at home. Model nonviolent, respectful behavior in your family.
  3. Support education initiatives that address teen dating violence.
  4. Help children develop knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that lead to healthy relationships.
  5. Don’t look the other way. Don’t remain silent. If you don’t know what to do, contact the family violence prevention program at Family Services.
  6. Be an ally. Support events and raise money for community-based initiatives that promote safety and security for all.

To learn more about supporting community change around family violence, register for the Wake-Up Walk (wakeupwalk.org) or visit our Safe Relationships Division.

This article was first published in Forsyth Woman Magazine, October 1, 2016.

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