Social Media Effort Envisions World Free of Intimate Partner Violence

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By: Chuck Colbert*/TRT Reporter—

BOSTON, Mass.—A mainstream, statewide non-profit organization which advocates against sexual assault and domestic violence and an LGBT survivor-led, social justice organization which works to end partner abuse in the LGBTQ community have joined forces to envision a world free of such abuse and much more.

Recently, the two organizations, Jane Doe Inc. and The Network/La Red, began a new social media campaign: #IWantAWorld. Just as it aims to raise public awareness of partner abuse and sexual assault, the campaign also seeks to expand accessibility of services for LGBTQ survivors and victims of abuse. The campaign comes at the same time the U.S. armed forces and numerous colleges and universities nationwide confront abusive behavior and sexual assault. [pullquote]Recently, the two organizations, Jane Doe Inc. and The Network/La Red, began a new social media campaign: #IWantAWorld. Just as it aims to raise public awareness of partner abuse and sexual assault, the campaign also seeks to expand accessibility of services for LGBTQ survivors and victims of abuse. [/pullquote]

The #IWantAWorld campaign is a unique social media movement on this issue. Employing Facebook and Twitter, for example, anyone in Massachusetts can now creatively express themselves through multiple artistic media, including video, spoken word, music, visual art, or writing, and complete the thought “I want a world…” Through its website—www.iwantaworld.janedoe.org—the campaign encourages vision sharing of a world without violence in LGBTQ communities.

One campaign participant posted, “#IWantAWorld where healthy relationships are celebrated.” Another wrote, “#IWantAWorld where everyone is a ‘who’ not a ‘what.’” Yet another said, “#IWantAWorld full of peace and love.”

In addition to individuals, organizations affiliated with Jane Doe Inc. can be participants, which means they have signed on as champions or supporters of the campaign to demonstrate their commitment to providing culturally appropriate and accessible services to the LGBTQ communities. Champions have made their services and programs fully LGBTQ inclusive. Their organizational representatives have attended one or more LGBTQ trainings and are committed to ongoing inclusive screenings and trainings.

Champion organizations currently include: Center for Prevention and Recovery; Center for Women and Community; DOVE, Inc.; Family and Community Resource Inc.; HarborCOV; IMPACT Boston; Renewal House; REACH Beyond Domestic Violence; RESPOND; Safe Passage; The Second Step; and Transition House. [pullquote]Employing Facebook and Twitter, for example, anyone in Massachusetts can now creatively express themselves through multiple artistic media, including video, spoken word, music, visual art, or writing, and complete the thought “I want a world…” Through its website—www.iwantaworld.janedoe.org—the campaign encourages vision sharing of a world without violence in LGBTQ communities.[/pullquote]

For their part, supporter organizations have committed to working towards meeting criteria in The Network/La Red’s LGBTQ assessment survey by 2015. Supporter organizations include: Casa Myrna; DV/SA Program of Newton Wellesley Hospital; Community Advocacy Program at CCHERS; Elizabeth Freeman Center; Independence House; Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center; and Voices against Violence YWCA of Central Massachusetts, and YWCA of Greater Lawrence.

Kickoff keynoters stress importance of campaignjanedoe_sm

The #IWantAWorld campaign kicked off with a launch party in Boston in June. It included a video photo booth, as well as artistic space for attendees to develop their own submission for the campaign. The event drew more than 100 people. Jane Doe, Inc. and The Network/La Red also provided a #IWantAWorld sneak peek during Boston Pride.

The launch featured several keynote speakers, including Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, AIDS Action Committee Executive Director Carl Sciortino, and the Rev. Irene  Monroe, a national religion columnist.

In an interview, Sciortino said AIDS Action Committee’s support for #IWantAWorld stems from a variety of concerns.

“The LGBTQ community faces violence on many levels, and our job as a community is to shed light on the realities of our lives,” Sciortino said. “If our relationships are to be fully equal, it means the reality of partner violence in same-sex relationships must be equally addressed.”

“AIDS Action Committee supports this project because sexual and relationship violence can sometimes lead to people being put at risk for HIV, and sometimes the fear of being outed as living with HIV can exacerbate relationship abuse,” Sciortino continued. “At the root of LGBT discrimination, HIV stigma, and the fear of reporting domestic abuse is shame. No one should feel shamed into not seeking support, treatment, or safety, and it is my hope that this education campaign can help combat that shame and stigma.”

Councilor Pressley said that #IWantAWorld impressed her for its ability to look beyond the prevailing narrative that sexual assault and domestic violence “only happens to straight people,” and “in most people’s minds that would be a woman being victimized by a man.” [pullquote]Councilor Pressley said that #IWantAWorld impressed her for its ability to look beyond the prevailing narrative that sexual assault and domestic violence “only happens to straight people,” and “in most people’s minds that would be a woman being victimized by a man.”[/pullquote]

She went on to say the power of #IWantAWorld is derived from personal storytelling, which affects lawmakers in a way that data does not.

“Statistics don’t move the needle,” Pressley said. “Stories do.”

For Pressley, “In order to get to a place where we see equity in services provided and an equity in outrage by activists and advocates, we need a diversity of voices by those who have been impacted,” she said. “These are crimes that do not discriminate. They transcend [sexual] orientation, gender, race and class.”

In her keynote remarks, Rev. Monroe noted that victims of same-sex domestic violence and abuse who are people of color are less likely to seek out survivor support services. She also pointed to a number of factors that contribute to “ongoing incidents of domestic violence in communities of color,” including “the dominant view that combines the social ills of race and violence to be the face of black males” and “lack of police intervention,” among others.

Sponsoring organizations at-a-glance

Jane Doe Inc. (JDI) is the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (www.janedoe.org). An advocacy and membership organization of nearly 60 community-based sexual and domestic violence agencies, JDI works to change the way society views and reacts to sexual and domestic violence in ways that make our communities safer today and for future generations. The Coalition operates from a gender analysis of sexual and domestic violence within a social justice framework. JDI recognizes the intersections of oppression and the critical roles of organizing and advocacy in transforming social norms.

Toni Troop, director of communications at Jane Doe Inc., emphasized that the initiative is more than a media campaign “because we are asking the public to engage through social media” and “use” those various platforms “to talk to friends, allies, colleagues, and family members” about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The other piece to public awareness, she said, “is expanding [survivor] services among provider groups.”

The Network/La Red (TNLR) is a survivor-led social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in LGBT, BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism), polyamorous and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, the organization aims to create a world where people are free from oppression. TNLR (www.tnlr.org) strengthens communities through organizing, education and the provision of support services. [pullquote]The Network/La Red (TNLR) is a survivor-led social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in LGBT, BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism), polyamorous and queer communities.[/pullquote]

The Network/La Red’s M. E. Quinn, director of organizing and education, explained that TNLR had been pressing the statewide coalition for a while to take on a campaign like #IWantAWorld.

“Our relationship with [Jane Doe Inc.] has gotten stronger,” Quinn said, “and we asked them to take this one on because [JDI] has a lot of sway over domestic violence programs in the state.”

In advocating the need for #IWantAWorld campaign, Quinn pointed to a startling statistic which estimates anywhere between 25 to 33 percent of LGBTQ people experience domestic violence or intimate partner abuse in their lifetime.

According to Quinn, the statistic is derived from a compilation of any number of academic and professional studies, as well as a recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which noted that last year there were 21 LGBTQ domestic violence homicides.

For more information on the #IWantAWorldCampaign and how to get involved, visit www.iwantaworld.janedoe.org and check out the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Material from a Jane Doe Inc. press release was used in this reporting.