On September 21st, 2010, the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to adopt the “Proclamation to Recognize October 2010 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Orange County”. In it, the Orange County Commissioners officially proclaim their recognition of the importance of domestic violence awareness, enunciate the severity of the problem among their constituents and in their communities, and reaffirm their commitment to ending the practice in their jurisdiction. While not a legally binding document the proclamation is nevertheless something akin to a “statement of intent,” on the part of the Commissioners, and constitutes and official recognition by the Board that there exists a problem, and it is their duty as county representatives to recognize and address it.
They realize, for example, that “domestic violence is a pattern of coercion and control,” and includes “not just physical [abuse], but also mental abuse, emotional abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, isolation and sexual abuse.” The Commissioners also made a point of singling out FVPC as particularly noteworthy for our work in dealing with domestic violence, especially our efforts to support the victims; citing, for example, how the “Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County provided services to 733 victims of domestic violence during [fiscal year 2009-2010],” alone. And the Commissioners made the poignant (if painful) admission of just how much work is still left to be done:
“[…] In North Carolina, according to statistics of the North Carolina Coalition Against Violence, there were 70 domestic violence murders between January 1, 2009 and December 30, 2009 and there have been 47 domestic violence murders between January 1, 2010 and August 29, 2010.”
The Commissioners also outlined some of the challenges faced by those wishing to combat these sobering statistics, particularly among minority and immigrant populations, for:
“[…] according to the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights, high rates of poverty, poor education, limited job resources, language barriers, and fear of deportation increases the difficulty in finding help and support services for minority women.”
The Proclamation also delineates possible strategies for reversing this trend and increasing DV prevention, citing “collaborations by multiple partners and a coordinated community response to promote policies, and laws that support gender equity and foster intimate partnerships based on mutual respect, equality, and trust,” as being crucial to reaching vulnerable populations and individuals, as well as being important to raising community awareness and reporting for instances of domestic violence and abuse. For, as the Proclamation itself declares, “[…] the key to prevention is education and requiring accountability [from] abusers”–regardless of whether that education and accountability comes in the form of peer influence and positive role models, or in the form of socio-governmental interventions (e.g. legal reprimand or incarceration).
The Proclamation closes with a declaration of support and commitment to the victims of domestic violence, and serves as a reminder to victims that they have not been forgotten, that they are not being ignored, and that they will not be abandoned by the society in which they live–even if society has been slow to react and recognize their plight. The writers of the proclamation end their document with an assertion that they understand the problem that has been placed before them, and have the will to tackle it, without prejudice. And they wish to send a message–both to victims and to the abusers who prey upon them–that such behavior will not be tolerated any longer–not by them, and certainly not by the community they represent:
“NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that we, the Orange County Board of Commissioners, do hereby proclaim October 2010 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Orange County and encourage residents to show support for victims and survivors of domestic violence, and to send the message we are a community working together to end this violence.”