by Judy Nelson
In October of 1981, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence instituted a “Day of Unity.” It was intended to connect advocates across the nations who were working to end violence against women and their children.
The Day of Unity soon became an entire week devoted to a range of activities conducted at the local, state and national levels. These activities were observed in many communities in varied ways, but with the common thread of mourning those who were lost to domestic violence, celebrating those who had survived and connecting those who work to end violence.
In October 1987 the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed with the initiation of the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline. In 1989 the U.S. Congress designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Such legislation has passed every year since that time.
Domestic violence is a critical problem that impacts entire communities and requires community solutions. Although no one likes to believe this type of violence could be happening in their community, the towns and cities of west Hennepin County are no less affected.
For more than 30 years Sojourner Project has been providing shelter, legal advocacy, support and education and prevention services in Hennepin County. Last year 383 women and children were sheltered, 2512 crisis line callers were assisted and legal advocacy (in Family and Criminal Courts) was provided to 819 victims through Sojourner’s programs.
Community collaboration and support are crucial in effectively enhancing safety and providing for the needs of victims, and there are many ways community members can help.
For example, organize an activity to benefit a local battered women’s shelter program, such as Sojourner Project; conduct a pajama drive, or a used cell phone collection project.
You may volunteer. Sojourner Project has a volunteer program that provides training and projects for individuals or groups — cooking a meal for shelter residents, organizing donations, taking calls on the crisis line or working with children.
Speak with your Faith community about putting a notice in weekly bulletins acknowledging domestic violence awareness month and asking the congregation to remember victims of domestic violence; contact Sojourner and request a speaker to come to your group or class, and talk about domestic violence, how to recognize the signs or how to help a friend who is experiencing abuse.
This month and throughout the year, if each of us resolves to become more aware at recognizing and combating domestic violence in our communities and to become involved in solutions, we can make our communities places of safety and support for all affected.
Nelson is coordinator of education and outreach for Sojourner Project, which provides safe shelter for women and children as well as advocacy and education about domestic violence issues in the west metro.