GFWC Members Advocate for Domestic Violence Prevention


By Chris Sienkilewski
GFWC Signature Project Committee Chairman

As Chairman of the GFWC Signature Project Committee: Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention for the past three years, I not only have watched our members learn more about what domestic violence is, but also saw GFWC members become true advocates for this project.

Our members begin with simple discussions about their own lives as they read GFWC’s Clubwoman Magazine or the weekly News&Notes. They bring this information to their clubs, and what starts as a simple discussion about the issue then becomes stories about their own experiences, whether from personal accounts or about family members and friends. Their discussions move to action plans, and our members work with their local and state organizations to become educators and advocates in their communities.

Eventually, the discussions moved to approaching lawmakers both in their own states and nationally. Our members learned quickly that the most crucial element to changing awareness and perception about domestic violence is to educate policymakers about the problems of domestic violence based on the real-life experiences of women. Each and every day, our members are supporting these issues through discussions, community speakers, innovative and creative projects that support shelters and victims, and increasing the leverage that can be brought to bear on politicians and other government officials.

And through these conversations, we have dispelled myths about domestic violence:

  • A national study found that 29% of women and 22% of men had experienced physical, sexual, or psychological intimate partner violence during their lifetime.
  • Abuse can come in many forms, such as sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional. When a person in a relationship repeatedly scares, hurts, or puts down the other person, it is abuse. Harassment, intimidation, forced or coerced isolation from friends and family and having an independent social life, humiliation, threats of harm to you or your family or pets, threats of suicide if you leave, violating your privacy, limiting your independence and personal choices are all examples of abuse.
  • Domestic violence takes on many forms, from emotional and psychological abuse to physical and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse ranges from true sexual assault, to harassment and exploitation.
  • Elder abuse is on the rise. As the population grows older, so do instances of abuse against older people, especially women. Elder abuse takes many forms, such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
  • The psychological impact of a child being raised in an abusive household can be profound. Many children develop cognitive and psychological problems after having experienced abuse second-hand. Eating disorders, sleeping disorders, depression, aggressive behavior, destructive rages, stuttering, shaking, and declined problem-solving skills are all symptoms of such abuse.

As October 2015 Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, I applaud the efforts of GFWC Clubwomen across this country in their support of the GFWC Signature Project. There is still so much work to do and our members are up to the task of showing the world that domestic violence can be diminished or eliminated.