Domestic Violence Heroes
When 10-year-old Trevor first attended the Children's Summer Day Camp for kids living with domestic violence, he was afraid to make friends. He had great difficulty controlling his temper, especially on the football field. A stocky kid who bullied his peers, Trevor avoided being hurt by hurting others first. "He wanted people to care for him and like him -- to love him, really -- but he was afraid that they'd leave him," says Steve Leatherwood, coordinator of the camp run by the Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council, Inc. in Shelby, North Carolina. The Children's Summer Day Camp, which helps the youngest victims of domestic violence develop healthy interpersonal relationships and improve their self-worth, is one of seven recipients of the 1995 Marshalls Domestic Peace Prize. Sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund (the FUND) and Marshalls, Inc., the Domestic Peace Prize makes awards of $10,000 to innovative, community-based programs and leaders who are working to prevent domestic violence around the nation. In Chicago, Bernice Haynes has begun another school year as the coordinator of the Domestic Violence Prevention Project that is housed at Pablo Casals Elementary School and run by the West Humboldt Park Family and Community Development Council. Located in a predominantly African-American and Latino community comprised of low-income and working-class residents, the Council initiated the Domestic Violence Prevention Project to explore how community organizing can help make domestic violence unacceptable among the children and parents in two elementary schools. The project's goal is to initiate a school-wide conversation and educational process about domestic violence. The project works on several levels. A parent support team helps identify victims of domestic violence who attend support groups at the school and receive individual attention from project staff. Classroom presentations about domestic violence help prevent young people from entering into abusive relationships. After-school rap groups provide the tools to prevent and avoid domestic violence. Both youth and parent support groups organize pot-luck luncheons, marches, vigils, and training sessions to continue the dialogue about domestic violence. As a 13-year survivor of domestic violence and stalking, Haynes is adept at getting even the most reluctant victims -- adults and children alike -- to open up. "When I go into a classroom, I tell them I'm there to support them in learning about domestic violence," says Haynes. "I ask them if they've seen their parents fight or been hit or called a name while they were fighting. The room just lights up! Some of the students say they feel afraid or scared to go home because they don't know what it will be like when they get there."Young people are also the focus of the third outstanding Peace Prize recipient. WEATOC (We're Educators -- A Touch of Class) is a 16-year-old peer education organization that enables Boston area youth to learn and make informed choices about issues critical to their lives. Through theatrical performances and educational workshops, WEATOC seeks to prevent violence, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and suicide by engaging young people in dialogue and problem-solving. WEATOC's newest program is Sister to Sister, which uses theatrical performances to educate young women about abuse. Through Sister to Sister, young women have opportunities to discuss the behaviors and interactions that constitute healthy intimate relationships. Participants have greater control over their lives and make better choices about their relationships. "They learn that you can remove yourself, that [intimate violence] is not the norm and that you don't have to accept it," said Judy McCarthy, coordinator of a program for emotionally-troubled youth whose clients have attended a Sister to Sister performance.In New York, the Korean American Family Service Center, Inc. (KAFSC) is credited with almost single-handedly raising awareness about domestic violence in the Korean-American community. Established in 1989 to provide crisis intervention, counseling and community education to victims of domestic violence, KAFSC helps meet the particular needs of Korean- Americans who, because of language and cultural barriers, have limited access to mainstream services. KAFSC conducts community education through seminars and media outreach to Korean-language newspapers, television shows and radio programs. Once a month, KAFSC staff discuss domestic violence issues as guests on a radio talk show that targets women. As a result of KAFSC's public education efforts, more Korean-American women are identifying themselves as domestic violence victims and seeking services and support. KAFSC's work helps facilitate a community dialogue about domestic violence, provides information illustrating how domestic violence harms families, and counters the traditional notions of family structure and gender roles that can keep women trapped in abusive marriages.Women working together to gain control over their lives is a major theme of the Farmworker Women's Leadership Project (Lideres Campesinas en California) based in Pomona, California. The project empowers Spanish-speaking and low-income farmworker women to become effective advocates for themselves and their communities. In early 1995, the Leadership Project initiated a domestic violence education and prevention component, the only one of its kind in the U.S. targeting farmworker women. After participating in an intensive training on the dynamics of domestic violence and the services available, 36 farmworker women returned to their communities to organize conferences, trainings and in-home presentations. These gatherings create "safe spaces" in which farmworker women become informed about domestic violence and, if necessary, get support and learn about resources. To date, the domestic violence trainers have reached more than 5,000 farmworker women in communities across California. The domestic violence project has benefited the farmworker women's community as well as the trainers themselves. Several trainers have ended marriages in which they were battered for many years. "After attending the first training, one woman who suffered from emotional and psychological abuse asked her husband to leave," said Project Coordinator Mily Trevino-Sauceda. "The project is helping to create a much more supportive environment. Domestic violence is no longer seen as an individual woman's problem."As awareness of domestic violence grows, more men are challenging other men's attitudes about and behaviors toward women. One such extraordinary effort is Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism (BMES). Based at Atlanta's Morehouse College, an historically Black, all-male institution, BMES seeks to help empower young people and other community members to resist abuse and prevent violence in relationships, families and communities. Called the only such group of its kind, BMES addresses sexism and violence at the individual, interpersonal and institutional levels. A central element of these efforts is community education on the ills of sexist oppression. Group members view individual acts of violence in the context of much broader patterns of social violence which, in turn, are expressions of long-standing power imbalances in our country. Such analyses help link sexism and other oppressions like racism -- an effective strategy in helping African-American men understand the harm inflicted by gender oppression. BMES' activities have included monitoring and speaking out against misogyny, date rape and sexual harassment; challenging businesses such as strip clubs that promote sexist behavior; and taking the lead in addressing sexism in African-American institutions and organizations. Through panel presentations, discussion groups and "rap sessions," "BMES provides opportunities for Black men to safely question manhood and masculinity," said Dr. Daniel Black, who teaches at Clark-Atlanta University. "I've never seen as much potential for change as I see in these spaces. After a panel discussion one young man came up to me and said 'I thought sexism was only a problem faced by white men but now I see black women are complaining, too. I'm glad I came.'"Debby Tucker, the only individual Peace Prize recipient, is executive director of the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), and has worked to end domestic violence for nearly 20 years. She co-founded one of the country's first battered women's shelters, and organized one of the first state coalitions against domestic violence. Debby's work centers around three goals: improving services for domestic violence victims; holding batterers accountable for their crimes; and changing the systems and situations that contribute to the continuation of the violence. One of Debby's most important achievements is her work to establish a National Domestic Violence Hotline to provide 24-hour crisis counseling, problem-solving techniques and referrals to battered women, their families and advocates from across the country. Housed at TCFV and set to begin in 1996, the multi-lingual Hotline will also offer limited counseling and referrals to batterers.The 1995 Marshalls Domestic Peace Prize recipients are shining examples of the many exciting ways groups and individuals around the country are taking creative action to end domestic violence. Through their noble efforts, we all move closer to the day when violence, fear and intimidation cease to be part of family and community life.Applications for the 1996 Marshalls Domestic Peace Prize will be available early next spring. If you are interested in applying, please contact the FUND, 415-252-8900, for more information.