Domestic violence remains one of the leading dangers for women in today’s world. An estimated one in five women will be a victim of abuse in her lifetime. With an issue so pervasive, so long standing, and so deeply ingrained in society, solutions are not easy to come by. The Mary Byron Project’s Celebrating Solutions Program hones in on specific characteristics that make an action plan against domestic violence successful. Through months of reading applications from all over the nation, The Mary Byron Project commemorates initiatives that present innovative solutions to broaden the scope of available services for victims to turn to, and ultimately create a world where there are far fewer occurrences of intimate partner violence altogether. 2013 boasted groundbreaking models for the nation to follow in shelters, housing, law, education, and medicine. Domestic violence transcends all dimensions of life and therefore must be combated with a multi-front approach. It is the honor of the Mary Byron Project to recognize these valiant efforts.
A little fresh air can go a long way. Greenhouse 17 presents a creative and inventive solution to help victims rebuild their lives after violence has caused extensive loss and damage. Their solution is agriculture based healing. That’s right, aside from providing advocacy, emergency shelter, legal services and housing support, they also give victims the empowering opportunity to help cultivate the land on their beautiful 40 acre farm. Peaceful moments in gardens, where witnessing plants growing can inspire feelings of hope, serve to counteract stresses victims have experienced through their trauma. There is something very life-affirming about planting a seed and seeing it grow—the literal affirmation that confidence in the future is not futile. They benefit from these efforts and are able to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables which also teaches good eating habits. Further, through these efforts the farm plans to become an entirely economically self-sustaining program while offering survivors microenterprise opportunities. They are deeply committed to community involvement and garner support from local establishments. Greenhouse 17 redefines the meaning of healing and helps victims get back on their feet while learning life-long skills.
District Alliance for Safe Housing
Home should be a safe place. DASH posits that every survivor of domestic violence should have stress-free access to a roof over head where they can heal. Lacking a safe place to stay often traps victims and their children in abusive and potentially very dangerous situations. DASH’s innovative design for providing housing departs from the traditional model of shelter and housing for victims, instead offering emergency, transitional and permanent housing services to residents in an apartment setting, where they have leases in their own names and are able to transition in place rather than moving from one facility to another after completing each predetermined stage of housing. They call this program “Rapid Re-housing” and move victims into their own housing units immediately after they have escaped abuse and keep them housed for the long-term. The settling allows residents to have their own private space to heal and recover, conducting their lives as they would in their own homes. Their reach has been nothing short of astounding. In 2013, DASH safely housed 225 individuals (94 women and 131 children) providing over 800,000 safe nights. 350 women and families were placed into emergency, transitional and permanent housing. DASH also works to educate the community and has reached over 2,000 women and advocates. In an article by WUSA 9 DASH resident Janet M. Copeland offers a chilling testimonial: “When she gave me the key to open my door I fell to my knees and kissed the floor because I was so happy. I felt safe. It was like a new awakening. I was just so grateful. That’s the word. I was just so grateful that it was a place that I could go with my baby and feel safe.” DASH places victims in highly secure housing at undisclosed locations so they can rest assured that their perpetrator will not find them. And in the long-term, with DASH by their sides, victims can build a life free of violence in a home they can afford.
Rutgers School of Social Work
Domestic Violence is a complicated issue. In order to enrich the education of those serving in the field, Rutgers School of Social Work has crafted a certification program specifically pioneered for studies surrounding violence against women and children. They are the only university in the country to offer this program to graduate level social work students. Through in-depth courses, specialized field placements and supportive scholarships Rutgers tailors the program to create professionals who have the skills needed to work effectively and sensitively with survivors of violence. Graduates have gone on to obtain professional leadership positions working in the fields of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse in clinical and administrative venues. The program’s research, education, and training impacts communities and policies in New Jersey, the U.S. and throughout the world. Rutgers is leading the way in encouraging schools of social work across the country to implement a focus on research on violence against women.
National Crime Victim Law Institute’s Responding to Violence Against Women Project
Victims of domestic violence all too often become victims of the criminal justice system as well. The National Crime Victim Law Institute recognizes that historical and cultural myths and biases create unique hurdles to women’s access to justice. The NCVLI recognizes the necessity to curb the pretenses that intimate partner violence is a woman’s fault for staying in the relationship. They have launched the Responding to Violence against Women Project to focus on ensuring that victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and/or child abuse are empowered in their attempt for justice. The project ensures that service providers and lawyers responding to these victims have the knowledge and skills necessary to protect a victim’s rights, particularly in the criminal case against offenders. The victims are not merely pieces of evidence in the case against the defendants but persons whose independent voice and rights need to be protected so that they can heal from the trauma they have been through. NCVLI conducts research, hosts a myriad of trainings, issues legal publications on rights enforcement to aid practitioners, crafts model legislation and drafts public policy briefings. In short, NCVLI recognizes that the system is flawed and all too frequently puts the victims on the defense. If we want more women to come forward, to seek justice, to pursue protection, the system needs reform.
Every year along with the four Celebrating Solutions winners, the Mary Byron Project recognizes an outstanding program that specifically works with underserved populations with the Roth Award. Because domestic violence affects the full range of socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic and religious groups, there is a demand for programs specifically tailored to reach diverse groups.
Migrant Clinicians Network, Inc.’s Hombres Unidos Contra la Violencia Familiar (Men United against Family Violence)
The epidemic of domestic violence will not change until men join women in the fight. Hombres Unidos engages Latino migrant men in group dialogue, facilitated by their peers, to learn about sexual and intimate partner violence. They learn to define healthy relationships through knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs. The Austin Texas group recognizes the importance of using a culturally sensitive approach to address the issue of intimate partner violence across socio-economic and ethnic boundaries. They conduct workshops in the language most participants find comfortable, usually Spanish, and foster a safe environment for discussion and learning. By training 150-300 men annually, they create community leaders and activists among Latino men who can spread positive messages of respect and exemplify healthy behaviors to their friends and families.
The Celebrating Solutions and Roth Award winners generate a sense of hope in the continuing fight against intimate partner violence. Their superior efforts to improve the resources available to victims and their drive to educate the masses to create informed foot soldiers of change are integral in ultimately ending the stigma surrounding one of our nation’s largest public health downfalls. These promising initiatives will help to end the cycle of violence that still exists in profundity in this day and age. To see more outstanding programs that we have honored, visit our website.