Work in Progress
Four key initiatives at JDI have grown out of listening to the needs and priorities of our membership programs. The common ingredient of these projects is the focus on addressing the root causes of sexual and domestic violence. Creating a new vision for sexual violence prevention, intervention, and services demands a shift in societal beliefs regarding power and control. Addressing the economic situation of victims and survivors involves understanding the ways that financial illiteracy and gender inequity limit options for women and others without power in society. Preventing domestic violence homicides requires changing the underlying social norms that support violence against women. Preventing violence against women recognizes that men have a particular responsibility and role to play in ending sexual assault and domestic violence victims—regardless of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
The common remedy of these projects is to engage social norms change efforts. What this means is developing a plan for bringing about change on individual, community, institutional, and societal levels. If we want the root causes to be affected, we need to change what society will accept as the behavioral norm around these issues. Another goal of these initiatives is to support the capacity of local programs to provide survivors with tools to use on their own behalf to secure their safety, dignity, and liberty.
The sexual violence programs within JDI’s membership have teamed up to re-envision ways to address and ultimately end sexual violence in Massachusetts. This Work Group began by defining a common understanding of [how sexism, racism, and homophobia overlap] [the intersections of sexism, racism, and homophobia] with the issue of sexual violence. The group has started on the next phase to develop a statewide plan for community-based sexual violence services and activism. The plan recognizes local sexual assault programs as the hubs of expertise and activism when it comes to the needs of sexual assault victims and survivors and their communities and the opportunities for prevention. The plan also will offer a blueprint for local programs and JDI to help ensure a strong, vibrant, and resourced network of local programs in Massachusetts.
Another goal of this work group is to strengthen JDI’s capacity to deliver targeted assistance in the form of training, ongoing initiatives, policy, budget advocacy, and communications on behalf of its members with a laser focus on member’s specific needs and goals.
Economic control is commonly used by abusers to prevent their victims from leaving abusive and unsafe conditions. Economic abuse also limits choices for victims and survivors in terms of housing, employment, education, and independence. With support from The Allstate Foundation, JDI is establishing a focus on economic advocacy. This grant allows JDI to join national partners and domestic violence coalitions around the country in bringing the “Financial Empowerment Curriculum” to our members. This curriculum was developed collaboratively by The Allstate Foundation and NNEDV. The curriculum is informed by the needs of victims of domestic violence and the financial experience of Allstate.
Training workshops and other efforts will help advocates in our member programs incorporate the Financial Empowerment Curriculum into their advocacy work. The curriculum is designed to assist survivors in gaining the skills needed to address financial struggles, to obtain economic self-sufficiency, and access economic remedies and resources.
The bottom line is that we believe—in fact we know—that domestic violence homicides are predictable, and, therefore, are preventable. This bold statement has driven much of JDI’s work over the past six years to address the ways that our systems, services, policies, and practices can help keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable.
Within this framework, JDI has been tackling the issue of domestic violence homicide prevention on several fronts: research, training, policy, practice, and social change. For over twenty years, JDI has tracked the domestic violence homicide cases in Massachusetts as one way of quantifying the loss. Building on years of research and experience, JDI conducted a deeper analysis of the domestic violence homicides that occurred in one year. This analysis resulted in a report that identified issue and policy implications for the intervention and prevention of domestic violence and domestic violence homicides.
This report coincided with efforts among our member programs to explore new models for domestic violence homicide prevention in their communities. Our work has also been informed by current research regarding high risk factors for domestic violence homicide and dangerousness assessments—sometimes called lethality assessments—based on the behaviors of domestic violence perpetrators.
We’ve been working with our member programs to engage police departments, district attorney’s offices, health care providers, and the media to incorporate this knowledge into their everyday practice. We’ve paid particularly attention to how this work must be tailored to specific communities – both geographical and cultural – in order to work best.
Providing services for survivors and holding offenders accountable are two critical pieces. In the long term JDI’s primary prevention efforts—such as the White Ribbon Day Campaign—are also related to our domestic violence homicide prevention. We can change all the rules and provide all the services, but in the end we have to change the underlying values that create a culture where domestic violence occurs.
Though sexual and domestic violence have gained increasing attention as matters of public concern over the past few decades, these continue to be viewed primarily as "women´s issues." Since 2000, JDI has embarked on a multi-dimensional and interdscipincary journey that focuses on the role that men can play in helping to end violence against women. We're inviting all men from thought leaders, elected officials, and celebrity athletes to business leaders, coaches, and youth mentors to stand up and be counted.
Our strategy is to promote positive masculinity and to interrupt the social norms, such as stereotypes about gender roles and learned behavior about power and control, both of which result in violent behaviors including sexual assault and domestic violence. While men who work in clinics, professional education, and criminal justice arenas are already engaged in and contributing to this work, historically men in the general public remain uninvolved. JDI firmly believes that men's voices and active participation are critical to the success of efforts to end men's violence against women, children, and other men.
To date our strategies have spanned mobilizing men and boys in prevention and education work, community organizing, and partnership with JDI and our members. The Massachusetts White Ribbon Day has become one of JDI's signature events and campaigns. We've established collaborations to promote responsible fatherhood; the focus on prevention of first time perpetration of sexual assault by teenage boys recognizes the unique position of fathers to teach male sexual respect and consent to their children. We also host regular brown bag lunches and other opportunities to support of men working in the movement.