When I write for the Beachcomber, typically my aim is to provoke a few chuckles, but today, I’d like to raise the visibility of an important subject. This year I have the honor of volunteering as president of the Board of Directors for The DOVE Project — a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting the survivors of domestic violence, as well as providing education and prevention programs for the entire community. I’d like to share with you what DOVE stands for.
Domestic violence is much more complicated than the common perception of a blue-collar man with a black-eyed wife and cowering children. As recent allegations on the national stage have shown, it can happen in partnerships of highly educated individuals in the uppermost economic brackets. Domestic violence can manifest in multiple ways, and physical brutality is just one.
We also want to address the all-too-common attitude, “Why don’t they just leave?”
The hurdles to leaving an abusive relationship are enormous. For instance, abusers are adept at manipulating money because money means power. And abusers make their partners well aware that leaving can mean financial ruin. Abusers will also emotionally isolate their victims. They push family and friends away until the only voice the abused hears is the one telling them how worthless they are, how no one can love them, and how lucky they are to even have a partner.
If they do manage to leave, it may only get worse. Abusers can make a survivor’s life a living hell through harassment, stalking or legal persecution — the person with the money gets the lawyer, and the one with the lawyer can get the children and the house.
All of this would need to be endured while rebuilding financial and social resources. For many, staying is the lesser of two evils.
Unlike an attack by a stranger or abuse by a person of authority, domestic violence has another layer of complexity: it begins with a loving relationship.
Domestic violence lives silently in the shadows. The abuser knows it is morally repugnant, and the survivor is too humiliated, too embarrassed or too frightened to speak its name.
So when The DOVE Project picks up the phone or answers the door, we often find someone living in a world they have no idea how to navigate, and that’s when DOVE goes to work.
Everyday our advocates walk alongside survivors to help them meet their individual goals, whether that is safely leaving or safely staying.
What does DOVE stand for? Dignity. Opportunity. Voice. Empowerment.
But we cannot pick up that phone or open that door without donors. Because of the strict confidentiality laws under which DOVE operates, donors will never know to whom they gave comfort and support in the most dire of circumstances. And because of that, I truly believe our donors practice the purest form of altruism.
Helping survivors is only part of the solution. To effect change, there must be robust and sustained prevention programs. Here again donors will enjoy the rewards of making a difference — without knowing to whom.
Donors will never meet the young adult that recognizes and avoids an abusive relationship because of what they learned from our middle school and high school programs. Donors will never meet the person that did not get drugged while at the bar because the bartender took our SAFE training. Donors will never meet the person who wasn’t assaulted because a bystander took our Green Dot training.
Prevention is a curious thing. It is hard to appreciate or assign value to something that didn’t happen. But I believe donors want to build a community where these programs are available to themselves, their children and their grandchildren.
To change attitudes, provide services and teach prevention programs, we rely on our donors. As these programs are free to the public, it takes funds to develop and refine curriculums with the latest, science-based information.
In 2017 alone, DOVE provided Green Dot and SAFE trainings to over 200 islanders and impacted 900 middle and high school students with specialized prevention programs.
This month marks the beginning of DOVE’s “100 MAN CAMPAIGN.” You will soon see our posters and advertisements on the radio, social media platforms and here in the Beachcomber.
I sincerely hope you will consider donating because there has never been a more important time to support The DOVE Project. Please help us break the cycle of violence and abuse now – (vashondoveproject.org/donate) or The DOVE Project PO Box 1341 Vashon WA 98070.
– Chris Austin is a DOVE board member.