Today on the Inland Journal podcast, we’ll hear more about an aggressive new campaign to stop all types of intimate partner and family abuse and violence in Spokane. The city has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Washington. Community leaders decided that it’s a serious enough problem that it requires a much more vocal and unified campaign.
They created a new documentary that features one survivor of domestic violence who agreed to tell her story. Tonight, that half-hour film will be shown at 7 on all but one of the local television stations.
The Spokesman-Review and Inlander have and will write more about domestic abuse. And today, we will feature interviews with two of the leaders of the campaign and Don Hamilton, the director of the documentary.
This is the day before the start of the national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Kim Pearman-Gillman, who chairs the committee that is directing the month-long End the Violence Campaign, says the documentary is meant to grab the community’s attention and, she hopes, hold it long enough that significant progress can be made in solving the problem.
“I think we’re creating that attention, intentionally, saying this must stop in our community and that we have to double-down and triple-down on the message," Pearman-Gillman said. "We have to get people’s attention through an awareness campaign and then we have to show them a compelling story so that they know it’s real. The documentary does that. And then we have to align our forces to do things even more to address this.”
“We continue to have homicides and violent attacks in our community related to domestic violence," said Annie Murphey, chair of the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition. "The issues are not going away. The number of victims is growing. I think it’s time that we, as a community, start paying attention. With groups like Priority Spokane identifying family trauma as their next area of focus for three years, as well as other community partners that have been invested in this issue, I think that everyone’s coming together and creating this opportunity.”
This campaign reminds me of the “Our Kids, Our Business” community campaign that began in April 2007. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. The creators of that campaign adopted a multi-colored pinwheel logo that you still see around the community. Don Hamilton says that’s a campaign that has the staying power that this group is looking for.
Domestic violence stigma
Why is there such a stigma about domestic violence? Annie Murphey says one component is the notion that women who are beaten somehow deserve it. Another is the idea that once a woman is abused, she should get herself out of the relationship.
“I think that situation is unique for every victim and every survivor inside their own relationship. For some people it is appropriate in a life-or-death situation that they contact 911 and law enforcement step into the picture," Murphey said. "For other people, it may be a better route for them to contact a victim’s service agency like the YWCA and make a safety plan around what really is the best situation for them.”
The graphics created for the campaign focus on eyes. Kim Pearman-Gillman says that’s a message to people that they need to open their eyes to domestic violence.
“These are real people with real eyes that you’re looking at. It’s the community’s eyes watching, but it’s also the victims’ eyes and they’re us. We can’t turn away," she said. "It is our sister. It is our brother. It is our cousin. It is our aunt. It is our moms. It is our daughters. To think that we can look away is cowardly. Is it easier to look away? Yeah, but we want to stop looking away as a community and say we must take this on. It is an epidemic level. It is hurting us at our core and we are better than this.”
After the documentary
“The next steps are a strategic plan, a community-wide effort to really build the community’s plan around this," Pearman-Gillman said. "The Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition will be the lead, but we will help support them. We’re going to bring those people who have been working to end the violence to help and support, be their marketing, be their background strategy people, get their 501(c)3 status. Innovia’s going to house the organization. I’m working on fundraising so we can hire an executive director. So there’s a lot of steps to that.”
Pearman-Gillman says the next high profile event in October will come on the 11th when the YWCA will hold its Women of Achievement luncheon with Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. She’s the Michigan judge who sentenced Dr. Larry Nasser in the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse case.
Annie Murphey says the people involved will try to measure the effectiveness of the campaign, to see whether domestic violence rates rise or fall over time. One positive sign will be if more victims feel safe enough to report their attacks or publicly tell their stories.
“So much of domestic violence happens in silence and behind closed doors and we don’t talk about it. So to have someone that’s willing to come forward and share their story is incredibly powerful," she said. "There are other survivors in our community that do share their story, but again, because of the nature of domestic violence, we’re always looking at safety concerns, what’s best for them, what’s best for their children. There are some other survivors in our community that you may hear throughout the media in these weeks around this time, but we’re incredibly lucky.”
Another goal, says Kim Pearman-Gillman, is to get the rest of the community to speak up as well and to report warning signs when they see them.
Kim Pearman-Gillman: “And not be afraid to stand up and say, ‘I can do something. I can call law enforcement when I hear this going on,’ and they also are supportive of victims. They are not questioning, ‘Why don’t you leave?’ They’ve gotten educated over what a complex issue it is and that every story is unique. Every person’s life is unique. But we don’t look away. We look head on, straight into the issue and say we as a community can do way better than this. We can stop people dying and people suffering because of this if we put our minds to it. And our statistics, quite frankly, the truth is our numbers may go up first. With awareness, the numbers may go up before they can come down. It doesn’t mean that more of it’s happening, it means that more of it is getting reported. More of it is getting seen and brought to the forefront so we can deal with it. Then, hopefully, the resources will come together to have the DV Coalition have their own executive director. That’s the plan. That’s the money being raised and we will able to give them the kind of resources they deserve. Every one of them is doing their day job and then coming together to try to knit everything together as an ecosystem. They need the support to actually be able to afford the ecosystem pieces so that we can go for foundation grants, national grants, to actually address the issue and get law enforcement and all the partners the resources they need to actually address this issue, which is at epidemic level.”
“The goal should be that every child in this community grows up in a safe and secure household. That there’s no fear and no trauma that they’re experiencing and then they carry that trauma forward and then we see that cycle of trauma generationally continuing," Murphey said.
You can see “End of Violence” tonight at 7 on all of Spokane’s local TV stations, except KHQ.