Last night, at our candlelight vigil honoring the victims of domestic violence in Massachusetts over the last year, we read the names of all the individuals who died as a result of domestic violence in 2009. The names included 15 women, five men and three children. Their stories are a vivid reminder that domestic violence transcends age, social class, race, gender and sexual orientation/identity. As the Director of Renewal House, of course, I already knew this. But seeing the names and reading the stories enabled me to see it more clearly.
You can read their stories by going to http://www.janedoe.org/ and clicking “Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2009.”
As I read their names and ages, I was also struck by how many of these domestic violence victims were over the age of 50. Most of our guests at Renewal House are 35 and under. The fact that those who seek shelter are typically younger than 40 painfully illuminates the silent struggles experienced by those older people who have been in domestic violence relationships for years and years. It is simply terrible to be that stuck, isolated, and abused without any assistance or anywhere to turn.
I recently received an email from Jane Doe, Inc. (our statewide network of domestic violence and sexual assault providers) announcing that the Social Security Administration had distributed sets of domestic violence awareness posters to 1,900 supervisors in their offices across the country. Finally, in 2009, the 50,000+ employees of our country’s largest connector to individuals 65 and over now have access to domestic violence resources. This is both a resource for the people they serve, as well as for their own employees. The Social Security Administration, like many hospitals and other large employers, has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to support employees and their families in times of crisis and difficulty. By raising awareness around domestic violence – and offering resources – thousands of people are no longer isolated in their bubble of abuse. We have begun recognizing their struggles and providing resources for their journey towards healing.
As 50 of us gathered last night at the UU Urban Ministry to honor those who had lost their lives due to domestic violence, I was grateful to be part of a community that cares and puts that care into action. And, amidst the sadness and the pain of the loss of 23 lives, I am reminded of how many lives we have positively impacted by offering safety, support and community to individuals and families who decide to leave the abuse behind and begin anew.