Opinion: Let’s Listen to Survivors and Prevent Domestic Violence in Future Generations

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Survivors often tell us that they want to prevent anyone else from experiencing the pain they went through.

“Bring in guest speakers to high schools on domestic violence,” one survivor requested, when asked about how we can move toward a future free from domestic violence. “Chances are, there are students, like my children, who are going through it with their mom and they don’t know what it is that they’re going through.”

Domestic violence is a learned behavior, and intergenerational trauma has real impacts on youth.

To truly stand in solidarity with survivors, we must never lose sight of the hope in preventing violence for generations to come. The costs of sexual and domestic violence are astronomical: Sexual violence costs the state $140 billion annually, and the lifetime economic burden of domestic violence in California is nearly $400 billion.  This doesn’t have to be our future.

Krista Niemczyk

California’s new Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, has said she is committed to addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACEs. To fulfill this vision, it is vital that rape crisis centers and domestic violence programs receive the funding needed to support young people in their communities. As a part of these programs, we are seeing youth taking the lead in peer-to-peer conversations, which can address early trauma, provide support in changing abusive behavior, and prevent intimate partner violence in adulthood.

Nadia Charles, president of a youth program at Jenesse Center, a domestic violence intervention program in South Los Angeles, provided a powerful example of these efforts. Nadia began her work in the movement by attending a youth conversation event, which provided a space for teens to learn and discuss how to educate their peers about healthy relationships.

“I believed that if I could start providing this education now, then maybe when I’m an adult, there won’t be any shelters,” she said. “So here we are six years later, and I am blessed to be able to use my knowledge and voice to make a difference, educate, encourage healthy relationships and prevent violence in peer relationships.”

Inspired by Nadia’s work, and so many more youth leaders across the state, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and our colleagues at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault are requesting ongoing state budget funding to prevent sexual and domestic violence. For the past two years, we have been grateful that Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom have granted one-time funds—but to address such deeply entrenched and pervasive issues, communities need ongoing funding.

Can we count on Newsom to acknowledge that proven prevention strategies are a key part of ending domestic violence—and provide the dedicated funding needed to create enduring change? In 2020, policymakers will hear our voices as movement activists, survivors and youth leaders.

Krista Niemczyk is the public policy manager at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

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