Domestic violence is a problem that exists in all communities irrespective of culture, religion, sexual orientation, income or immigration status. Yet, despite its prevalence, we are facing federal budget cuts for programs that help domestic violence survivors and try to prevent future abuse.
Research shows nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Programs that serve domestic violence survivors receive more than 20,000 calls a day on average. The presence of a gun in a situation involving domestic violence increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent. The rise in domestic violence during the pandemic underscored a need for greater action to prevent this public health crisis. State leaders, community-based organizations and members of the community all have a part to play.
As domestic violence service providers, we urgently need a comprehensive state plan to address domestic violence in all communities. We urge policymakers to:
- Enact and support policies that offer intersectional approaches to addressing domestic violence. This includes targeting related issues such as homelessness, pay inequity, reproductive rights, poverty and child marriages, to name a few.
- Support funding for domestic violence service providers at the federal, state, county and city levels.
- Rethink law enforcement responses to crisis situations, with special focus on stopping brutality against people of color and training first responders on best practices for handling domestic violence incidents.
- Evaluate and improve language access at city and county government facilities, such as courts, DMV, social service agencies and law enforcement so survivors with limited English proficiency can more easily get the help they need.
- Train local government employees and agencies on cultural responsiveness.
- Involve non- governmental organizations as thought partners when planning city activities related to addressing and preventing domestic violence.
- Uplift the voices of minority groups whenever possible because they currently lack representation in committees and other policymaking spaces.
For community members, the task is simpler yet just as vital:
- Recognize domestic violence as a pressing issue.
- Exemplify healthy relationship for children at home.
- Elect leaders and policies that contribute towards building a just and equitable future for all of us.
Together, we will transform our communities to thrive in peace.
Zakia Afrin has been an advocate for immigrant women for over 17 years in the San Francisco Bay area and currently oversees survivor advocacy programs at Maitri.