The following piece appeared in Ms. Magazine Blog on August 22, 2018.
Sexual violence, domestic violence, child maltreatment and community violence are often experienced together, and exposure to one form increases risk of experiencing or engaging in another.
Thus, the cycle of violence continues—except it doesn’t have to. Many communities are changing the narrative and proving that safety is possible. In fact, violence prevention advocates across the country are crafting efficient and effective solutions that address and prevent multiple types of violence.
Protestors at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington declare solidarity with women around the world. (Wendy Harman / Creative Commons)
The state health department in Colorado has been inspired by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Prevention Institute research on the connections between forms of violence. Through its strategic plan for violence and injury prevention, the department is using this research to bolster common protective factors that buffer against multiple forms of violence. Practitioners are braiding previously “siloed” funding and building new partnerships to better implement efforts that improve connectedness, positive social norms, good behavioral health, economic stability and resilience—factors that the department has identified as critical for preventing violence in Colorado.
Communities are also building their own capacity at the local level to prevent several forms of violence concurrently. The Alliance to End Abuse in Contra Costa County, California brought together a multi-sector team to change the way systems work, developing a blueprint to reduce interpersonal violence. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Office of Violence Prevention created the Blueprint for Peace to address multiple forms of violence and trauma—and just last month, the Health and Human Needs Committee of the County Board of Supervisors voted to officially endorse it, demonstrating that political will is building for this kind of comprehensive and efficient approach to violence prevention.
Advocates are following suit, organizing across social justice issues and centering community needs in their own work. Focusing on the interconnectedness between issues and people, We Choose All of Us in Idaho is generating a culture that interrupts violence in its many forms through practices such as storytelling.
At this year’s National Sexual Assault Conference in August, Prevention Institute will host a mini-track highlighting efforts underway to build cultures of safety and equity that increase interconnection and decrease violence in its many forms. “From a Cycle of Violence to a Culture of Safety and Equity: Connecting the Dots to Prevent Multiple Forms of Violence” will explore how to end the cycle of violence through good solutions that solve multiple problems at once.
In a world where we experience cycles of violence daily, weekly and across generations, it becomes difficult to envision a culture that supports safety for all. But when we work together, the path forward can become more clear.
Alisha Somji, MPH is an associate program manager at Prevention Institute.