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Domestic Violence: Where Our Attention Should Be Focused

Dec 03, 2014

In 2014 we've seen domestic violence highlighted by the mainstream media unusually frequently. This is due in large part to the issues that plagued the NFL leading up to its current season, with multiple star players being accused of, charged, and/or suspended for domestic violence issues. In fact, the issue with regard to the NFL just resurfaced this past week as Ray Rice—he was suspended indefinitely by the league after a video surfaced showing him abusing his fiancé. But in all the public discussion about abuse and violence in homes, one thing has been missing: a discussion about the children.

Even in the instance of superstar running back Adrian Peterson. He faced legal action after a punishment of his young son went way too far, resulting in some graphic photos that sparked public outrage. By the end, however, the discussion became generic. Instead of debating how Peterson's son should or could have been protected from abuse, or how his safety and well-being (and of course that of any children in potentially abusive situations) can be guaranteed in the future, we simply threw it into the greater discussion on domestic abuse and, more specifically, domestic abuse committed by famous athletes.

A larger and more comprehensive discussion about child abuse is needed. Millions of good people are appalled when issues of child abuse reach mainstream news, but it tends to be easier to focus on punishing abusers after the fact rather than preventing similar offenses in the future. Fortunately, however, there are a number of programs and initiatives seeking to do just that. In light of the major domestic abuse-related news stories of the past few months, it's worth pointing out that some of them are easily accessible for the general public.

Perhaps the easiest way that we can all contribute to beneficial domestic abuse programs is through the Verizon “Hopeline" program, which essentially turns old mobile phones into real, tangible help for victims of abuse. Through this program, people can donate no-longer-in-use phones back to Verizon to be wiped clean and, when possible, distributed with pre-loaded minutes and texting plans to victims of domestic abuse. This provides those victims with a safe, secure, and private means of communication, should they need one for future safety. Additionally, any proceeds generated from the program go to various organizations dedicated to preventing domestic violence. It's a prime example of a program that makes a real difference with minimal effort on the part of the average consumer.

There are also more hands-on initiatives out there. Take, for instance, the American Humane Association's growing "Front Porch Initiative." It seeks to harness the value of communities in preventing child abuse before it occurs, or at the very least before it becomes ongoing. Essentially, the program trains volunteer concerned citizens on how to recognize domestic problems in their communities, and perhaps more importantly, how to intervene in a safe and effective manner. It is by no means a perfect solution, but the unfortunate reality is that domestic abuse is far too widespread to be managed or prevented by professional authorities. The "Front Porch Initiative" seeks to develop the next best thing in equipping ordinary citizens to do their part to prevent abuse.

These are the types of programs that ought to be in the headlines when we see issues of domestic abuse and child abuse in the media. Our society tends to focus on blaming offenders and debating punishments, particularly when celebrity- and athlete-related cases are the ones we hear most about. But by seeking out programs like these, which allow any of us to make an impact, we can focus our energy on actually addressing the problem.

Karen Ogden is a freelance writer in Boston, Massachusetts. She likes to cover politics but also writes on a wide range of topics in public interest, entertainment, and general news.

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