Celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month?!


“You’re celebrating Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)?” a friend asked in the midst of a flurry of activities being planned in October for DVAM.  “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” 

 My only answer at the time was yes of course! We are celebrating the survivors of domestic violence as well as the work going on in our community to combat the epidemic of intimate partner violence. 
But his comment got me to thinking. Is celebrate really the best word to describe such a sober subject as domestic violence? The recent church shooting in Texas reminds all of us how dangerous domestic violence-related behavior can be, and how vital it is to remain alert and recognize the signs before violence escalates. Indeed, it is a life and death matter, and not to be minimized. 
So, thinking it through, I did what every Millennial would do (even though I am actually a Baby Boomer) – I went to google and looked up the word, Celebrate. This is what I learned:
To celebrate means to proclaim or publicize.
We started the month of October with a proclamation from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors declaring October Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Prince William County has an average of 9000 domestic violence-related calls each year, highlighting the need for our community to continue to be vigilant in the fight against domestic violence. We also collaborated with the Montclair Library by designing a “Know the Signs” exhibit on display all month. Many of our friends and partners in the community joined with the rest of the nation for Purple-Out Day.
Here’s some of our staff!  
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To celebrate means to acknowledge or announce.
 At our DVAM Symposium, ACTS Domestic Violence Services announced an important new partnership with the Prince William County Police Department called the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP).  The LAP protocol is a tool used by law enforcement to assess danger and connect victims to domestic violence services during domestic violence crisis calls. Studies show that when a victim has access to safety planning or shelter services, there is a 60–70% reduction in incidence and severity of re-assault compared to those without access to services.
To celebrate means to honor or memorialize.
 During the final week of October we held a Candlelight Vigil to Shine the Light on Domestic Violence on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Manassas. During this event we heard from family members who had lost a loved one to domestic violence, and we honored their memory. We also heard from survivors – courageous individuals who remind us of the real stories behind the statistics. As one person shared,  “when you hear that 1 in 3 women or 1 in 5 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, you never really expect to be the one. But I was that one.”
To celebrate means to feast.
Although we did not actually hold a feast day at ACTS during DVAM (we’re holding out for our staff Thanksgiving potluck!), we did enjoy warm cider and homemade soups in the ACTS Manassas office following the vigil. What a wonderful way to enjoy a meal together and close out a busy month!  
Celebrate DVAM?
Did we celebrate? Perhaps not in the traditional sense. But to the extent that celebrating incudes honoring, proclaiming, observing, announcing and feasting, then yes, I guess we did celebrate. 


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