Wednesday, December 5, 2012

iPledge and Take a Stand Against Domestic Violence

I saw a poster today for iPledge, a Women Against Abuse public-awareness campaign. Campaign materials challenge “everyday Philadelphians” to speak up when they see or hear domestic violence in the community and to “create a peaceful and safe environment” in their own homes. The campaign was started in 2008 but seems particularly timely considering recent news reports of Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide.

It’s natural for people to ask “why?” and “what if?” at times like this. Brady Quinn, the team’s quarterback, stated that the tragic events should make us question whether relationships in the digital age are too shallow to facilitate really getting to know someone and perhaps providing help when needed. “We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us," he said.

Jason Whitlock wrote that our “gun culture” was partly to blame. He stated “Our … culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy…”

The cousin of victim Kasandra Perkins, who was Belcher’s girlfriend and the mother of his infant daughter, is quoted as saying that the relationship between Belcher and Perkins was “strained,” but I haven’t read anything that suggests Belcher had a history of committing domestic abuse. However, there’s no question that this was an act of domestic violence. Had someone in Belcher’s circle “taken the pledge,” would it have mattered? Exactly what is the key to preventing domestic abuse? I’d really like to know, because stories of domestic abuse make me mad, really mad, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with this emotion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, educational programs that teach healthy dating and relationship behaviors, especially those programs targeted at young people, can stop violence in relationships before they occur. I’m hopeful about these efforts, because I believe in education, particularly education that challenges attitudes young people might have about the nature of domestic violence. My own experience is that sometimes young people, young male people in particular, don’t understand the aggressive nature of certain behaviors.

I can’t imagine what Belcher’s mother, who witnessed the murder, is feeling right now. These things shouldn’t happen. I don’t know her, and she doesn’t know me, but I will pray for her and other victims of domestic violence, and I will make the pledge, because I have to do something, and at least this is a start. 

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