As a nation, our hearts are broken over the increase in senseless violence against children and teens in our schools and on the streets. We passionately debate over public policy and social change with friends around the water cooler and online. Yet, we don’t feel there is one definitive action that can help us save the lives of our cherished youth.
What might be most surprising to discover about the heinousness of such crimes against kids is that often they are not on the streets or in schools, but in their own homes, at the hand of someone they know. In West Virginia a call is made to a domestic violence hotline every nine minutes. The vast majority of victims are women — moms, actually — who are being abused by their partners — insulted, threatened, beaten — in front of their children. And studies show that roughly half of those who perpetuate domestic violence against their partners also batter their children.
Children who are exposed to domestic violence face a lengthy list of daunting challenges, from emotional trauma to an increased likelihood of becoming either a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence in the future if they don’t get help. When children witness abuse, their understanding of relationships is built on unhealthy standards where abusive or violent behavior is an acceptable reaction to any number of circumstances.
What makes matters worse is that the social stigma surrounding domestic violence remains as strong as ever. We need to abandon our fear of being inappropriate and ask the women in our lives, “Are you OK? I’ve noticed you’ve seemed anxious lately. The bruises you’re covering up with makeup are worrying me. I’ve noticed the kids seem withdrawn and don’t want to leave your side.” Now isn’t a time for judgment or shame, it’s a time for compassion and action.
I know it’s not easy. Speaking up rarely ever is. But don’t think about offending a friend. Think about saving a child from a home environment that is anything but stable or secure.
For more than a decade Verizon Wireless has supported domestic violence awareness, prevention and services for survivors through our HopeLine program. You can help by donating cell phones and accessories you no longer use. No matter the condition of the phone or your carrier — you can bring it to any Verizon Wireless store and we will refurbish or recycle the phone and the proceeds will go toward putting a cell phone with prepaid minutes into the hands of domestic violence victims to help them rebuild — and perhaps even save — their lives.
Through HopeLine, Verizon Wireless is supporting Girls Night Out on Aug. 2 as a way for women in greater Charleston to come together and raise money for the YWCA’s Resolve Family Abuse Program. A $25,000 grant from Verizon will be used to build a new playground at the Resolve emergency shelter because we believe the youngest victims of domestic violence desperately need and deserve the chance to heal and just be a kid. Don’t you agree?
Domestic violence isn’t just a private matter between two domestic partners. Violence spills over into the lives of innocent victims — and onto playgrounds and into teen dating relationships where learned aggression can reveal itself at a young age. And the vicious cycle continues. Let’s put a stop to it, together.
Phillips is associate director of Verizon Wireless in Charleston.