It’s October and many of us across the nation are seeing green leaves turn crimson, gold, and brown. They are the easiest and most recognizable signs of autumn’s approach. We know how to respond to this signal of the changing seasons.
It’s October and many of us across the nation are seeing black and blue bruises on friends, family and neighbors. They are the easiest and most recognizable signs of domestic violence, yet many of us don’t know how to respond to this most obvious signal of physical abuse; and we certainly are unskilled at recognizing when someone in our sphere may be experiencing emotional abuse, intimidation, stalking or economic deprivation.
This month is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. National and grassroots organizations are initiating or redoubling their efforts to address the growing community health issue of intimate partner violence. The New York City Family Justice Center in Brooklyn has set up an anti-violence display in their lobby. They are presenting the “Clothesline Project” and “Flags for Hope”.
The Clothesline Project was initiated in Massachusetts in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. It has become an emotional outlet for those affected by intimate partner violence. Art is being used by the victims to express themselves and hopefully heal the damage done to the spirit.
On the clothesline are the decorated shirts created by survivors at the Safe Homes Project. Safe Homes has assisted thousands of survivors since 1974, and continues to do so with counseling, shelter, support groups, advocacy and referrals.
Safe Homes Project
718 499-1251 Hotline
The shirts become a powerful testimony to the personal and community devastation and impact of domestic violence.
“Flags of Hope”, another initiative of the Safe Homes Project, and in partnership with Good Shepherd Services, uses arts and crafts to memorialize those who died as a result of domestic violence. While white flags often symbolize surrender. These decorated white flags display messages of peace, safety, justice and hope. They are affirmations for all to see.
Monday, while viewing the lobby display, a mother and her young daughter joined me. The little girl couldn’t have been more than 6 years old. The kid could not understand why there were tee shirts hanging from a clothesline in the busy lobby of an office building. She kept asking questions and I could see this was an uncomfortable moment for the mother. At first the mom kind of ignored the questions (an all too common and cowardly tactic by adults), but this kid was relentless. Finally, I witnessed and overheard this mom struggle and string together, a truthful and age appropriate explanation.
She turned the awkward moment into a teachable moment. I wanted to hug this mom, but she was a stranger. A smile and a nod had to suffice, but I tell you, I did say a quick prayer and Amen. I felt like I needed to lend some support and express gratitude for this parent finding the courage and the words necessary to have that tough conversation; on the fly.
That mom sowed a seed on a sunny October afternoon. And while, I know fall is here and winter is coming; after what I witnessed, I can’t help but anticipate spring.
Peace, protection, and healthy relationships,