We’re already half-way through October. This very month, not just this year but a few years in recent history, has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Last week I wrote about DVAM and Halloween, and today’s related topic is one I always find interesting. About 9 years ago I went through a DV training. Not a one-day workshop, but a whole course on domestic violence. The purpose of the course was to educate community members about DV, also train people who worked in other agencies about best practices when their clients were also struggling with DV, and to help the agency running the course develop their volunteer base. It was something I’d wanted to do for years, because the single biggest risk of physical harm facing women is DV. Just over half of murdered women are killed by a current or former intimate partner. As a self-defense teacher, it seemed important to understand more about that risk and the social dynamics around it.
So I went through the course, and spent about 4 or 5 years as a volunteer. For the first year I staffed the crisis line. The crisis line is a great resource for people needing some immediate help. The single most common call we got, the most common question question asked, was “is there room in your shelter?” And the single most common answer we had was no, please call back later today or tomorrow. Because there was usually no room. That was the answer, while I was there, almost all the time.
What I find interesting was that there was such a large demand for shelter, yet the vast majority of time we turned people away. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense — if there’s such a demand, why is there so little supply? I don’t know the answer.
When I think about self-care — and finding a safe place to stay certainly is self-care — I see five levels. The first is self-soothing behavior, what you can do to help manage the way you express or experience emotions (such as fear, anger, worry, sadness) to calm yourself. There’s resiliency activities, which have a large overlap with self-soothing behavior but they’re generally done on a regular basis to help the future you become more resilient; this often includes regular exercise, healthy eating habits, meditation, and creative activities. The third level is when do you seek the support of a professional: therapist, doctor, attorney, victim advocate, law enforcement.
The final two levels are not immediate personal self-care, but they create the conditions that determine what self-care options are available to you. Institutional support generally backs your professionals and volunteer advocates. And structural/societal care is the bigger picture of what projects are deemed by “society” as more important. That’s where we find, relative to need, few resources allocated to domestic violence agencies in terms of budget that could fund it, such as for real estate, salaries for staff, food and clothing (not just shelter), legal aid, and programming to help clients get back on their feet.
How do we change that? We in Washington State have our voter pamphlets, and ballots are on their way. Do your due diligence. Make it a resiliency activity, which means you’ll do this every year. Which candidates are supporting funding and programs you care about? Support them, and vote.
You can also take our six-week course, Self-Defense 101. We go into on the dynamics of domestic and dating violence, on recognizing the red flags of abusive behavior how to navigate some of the landmines around DV and our legal system, because once you get into it, it’s not pretty at all. Next 101 classes will begin in January/February 2022, next year already!
Stay safe, live life!