Written by Michelle Schaefer, a Wesley Center Intern
Last month, I, along with three other Wesley interns, volunteered at the Domestic Violence Fatality Review and Community Based Risk Assessment: New Horizons event in Salem. This one-day training conference included presentations from national experts and workshops about community involvement to improve systemic responses to domestic violence. As volunteers, we had the opportunity to sit in on the presentations and assist with the workshop sessions.
I was very appreciative for the opportunity to participate in this event because of the insights I would gain about preventing situations of domestic violence and supporting survivors. As a student attending a training conference for responding to domestic violence situations, one of the pressing questions I had was how could I, with no experience as a social worker and limited knowledge, make a difference in my community? While this was one of the focuses, the conference presented extremely valuable takeaways about the role of community in preventing domestic violence.
Listening is Key
One of the speakers at the event spoke directly to my question of how one can feel unable to help in these situations without having the knowledge or qualifications to assist. She spoke to how this assumption is harmful to communities and that in many cases, victims of domestic violence reach out to at least one person, not necessarily for advice, but just to listen. It is this act of listening as a community that gives survivors the safe space they need. It also enables communities to refrain from the bystander role in situations of violence. As a young member of my community, simply offering to listen, without judgment and with full support and compassion, to those facing situations of violence can make an impact.
Communities Can Act as Safe Spaces
In addition, communities play a larger role in creating safe spaces for victims by actively spreading awareness and educating members on how to support victims, what healthy relationships look like and building understanding for these victims, fighting against false stigmas and victim blaming among communities.
Becoming an Ally
My experience volunteering at the DVERT event was incredibly eye-opening and this event inspired me to be a more proactive member of my community. I plan to continue to educate myself on how to further support victims of domestic violence and volunteer my time to help build the understanding community survivors need.
I realized how our actions as a community have an impact on younger generations and preventing future violence, and as a Wesley Intern, volunteer and community member, I strive to be role model by working actively to support victims and building an understanding community.
For more information about the conference and DVERT visit: http://ndvfri.org and https://multco.us/dv/domestic-violence-enhanced-response-team-dvert