‘Rebuilding Lives’ in wake of domestic abuse
By Lou Fancher
When approximately 100 men in the Concord Hilton ballroom stood up in opposition to domestic violence, it was profoundly moving.
The 24th annual STAND! Rebuilding Lives Luncheon brought together law enforcement officers from 12 Contra Costa County police departments, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier; representatives from the offices of various elected officials; the staff, volunteers and clients from the nonprofit whose mission it is to end domestic violence and child abuse, and people who support STAND!’s cause.
Responding to a call from keynote speaker Tony Porter for men to rise if they cared about a son, daughter, student, athlete or woman in their lives, the men stood among the audience of 350.
Moments before, Porter, an educator, activist and adviser to professional sports leagues and associations, the United Nations, U.S. State Department, and TED Talk presenter, had asked, “What is it in our socializing of our boys to men that we’re hoping that they just be nice? Where are we missing the beat?
He continued, “We put this thing on the shoulders of women too long. With good men, how is it that this many men are doing what they do to women, in the presence of all of us good men? We’re good men, but our silence is affirming. Not having the voice to challenge other men is holding us back.”
Citing the absence of fathers in kids’ lives, for both boys and girls, and statistics that included the one out of five young women who will be sexually assaulted during their four years in college, Porter issued challenge and promise.
“If men act and behave correctly, protection will take care of itself,” he said.
Development Officer Kris Jachens said that the Federal Justice Department requires since July 1, 2016, that all shelters provide gender inclusive services.
“Although I believe we’ve had only one man approach us in search of shelter as a victim of abuse in the last six months, awareness is changing,” Jachens said. “People are learning that women aren’t the only victims. People are getting louder about domestic abuse. We’re hearing more people say, ‘That’s happened to me.’”
Improved discovery of the problem means that STAND!’s website includes dismaying statistics: 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women; approximately 4 million women suffer physical abuse by an intimate partner annually; residents in communities lacking in cohesion and resources experience more violence; and more.
And there are more startling facts: domestic violence is the most common cause of injury for women ages 18-44; two out of five gay and bisexual men experience abusive partner relationships; victims, on average, attempt to escape seven times before leaving permanently.
The facts would be overwhelming if there wasn’t good news to report. STAND’s Lethality Assessment Program, a 1-year-old pilot program involving the Concord, Brentwood and Richmond police departments, has other law enforcement offices clamoring for inclusion.
“We have 11 questions police officers ask when on a domestic violence call that help us better identify it,” said Jachens. “We’re getting better at spotting it, and other departments are calling, asking to be included whenever we can expand the program.”
Domestic violence liaison Katherine Saitz says that legal assistance is the most common request she hears from new clients. With increased awareness, enforcement of restraining orders is improving.
“Most victims don’t know until they come to us, for example, that they can have an escort when they file for protection,” she said. “The most dangerous time is when they’ve decided to leave.”
Studies cited on the website state that more than 70 percent of domestic violence murders occur after a victim leaves — not while living with — an abusive partner.
Chief executive officer Gloria J. Sandoval in introductory comments stressed the importance of education and said that 1,500 students at Bay Area schools heard messages last year about ending domestic abuse and rebuilding families.
Porter, reflecting on STAND!’s 40-year history, asked, “What is going to be the role of men in STAND!’s next year?”
Urging men to give money, time, their voices and their hearts to preventing violence before it happens, he said, “Ninety percent of the perpetrators are men, yet we’ve been taught it’s a women’s issue. I’m encouraging men to make it a human issue that’s about humanity.”