Letter from City Manager Rick Cole on Domestic Violence
October 19, 2017
by Rick Cole
This year, in the City Hall lobby is a powerful exhibit on Domestic Violence, organized by Halima Barreto who works as the Family Victim Advocate in our City Attorney's Office. She’s expanded our annual observance of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month to include our libraries, parks, and Santa Monica College.
Violence in the home is as common as it is searing. One in three women experience it sometime in their lives and one in four men. Tragically, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families.
Violence in the home knows no boundaries of age or background. Shockingly, every day an average of three women die at the hands of a current or former partner. Even when abuse is psychological, it can leave lifelong scars.
Bombarded as we are with violence and bad news in the media, awareness of what may be happening next door can actually save a life. Too often victims are not believed, too often those who can help them feel powerless. That’s the value of awareness and education — to stop the chain of violence and abuse, usually against the most vulnerable among us. It can also sensitize us to the walking wounded among us – a co-worker, even a close friend who may be hiding what’s happening in their homes, trapped in the prison of fear and shame.
Bringing domestic violence into the light can open those prison doors, just as the growing awareness of sexual violence and harassment can break the silence and suffering of victims in the workplace. The shocking/not shocking news about Harvey Weinstein has given us all a “teachable moment.” In the City Hall exhibit, there’s a poster that proclaims: “No More Boys Will Be Boys.” The outpouring of hundreds of anguished stories of #MeToo forces us to confront the uncomfortable truth that the dehumanizing and exploitation of women takes place everywhere, not just in posh hotel rooms.
There is a darkness in the human soul. But there is also a burning light. Our duty and our opportunity is to shine the light to banish the dark. It is not easy to look squarely at our own faults and those of family members, neighbors and co-workers. But if we look away, it will go on. And on. And on. We are better than that, even if we are far from perfect.
No more boys will be boys. No more “she asked for it.” No more “that’s none of my business.” No more denial of the undeniable, no more tolerance of the intolerable. Let October be about more than pumpkin spice, the Dodgers in the World Series and Halloween costumes. Let’s make time for serious introspection and courageous conversations with our co-workers, families and friends about violence in the home, harassment in the workplace and our obligations to respect and care for those around us.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not just the definition of insanity, it is also the formula for perpetuating the status quo. Men need not shoulder sole individual responsibility for the vastly disproportionate share of violence and abuse against partners, children, work colleagues and strangers perpetrated by males, but neither can we slide from our individual responsibility for being part of changing it. Courage, the dictionary reminds us, is not about lacking fear. It is having the heart to confront it.