Maybe you’ve heard the prevention parable, “Moving Upstream.” In the story, a person fishing in a river sees a person being carried downstream, struggling for life. They pull that person out, but more and more people keep being carried downstream, needing to be rescued. Exhausted from constantly pulling people out of the river, they go upstream to try and figure out why people are falling into the water. They notice an old wooden bridge with several planks missing, and see that when some people try to jump across the hole, they don’t make it and they fall into the river. It is clear that the bridge needs to be repaired to keep the people from falling into the river.
This parable moves the intervention from downstream (individual intervention, after harm has taken place) to upstream (community-level primary prevention). Of course, it is essential to pull the drowning people from the river, and bring them to safety. We also need to address any long term consequences they might have as a result of falling into the water. But it is the “moving upstream” that underscores how vitally important prevention work is. At Safe Passage, our direct services help survivors and their families to deal with the short-term and long-term impact that domestic violence has had on their lives. And our prevention programming gives our community the skills and the tools to interrupt and prevent domestic, sexual, and interpersonal violence in our everyday lives.
Prevention in a Pandemic
The past two years of social and global unrest have shone a spotlight on numerous and intersecting public health crises, including domestic violence. As the field of domestic and sexual violence works to examine and reinvision our relationship to the criminal legal system, it is more important than ever to address violence before it escalates and to have other options for survivors to get support. Safe Passage has offered virtual volunteer, prevention, and outreach training to allow members of our community to continue to be a part of our work to prevent domestic violence and support survivors during this pandemic. Even amidst the fear and uncertainty we’re living in, we’ve seen our community step up and work to increase safety by building their skills as bystanders.
How Can YOU Help?
At Safe Passage, we believe that every person has a role to play in preventing domestic violence. This can look for everyone: some people might begin by reflecting on their own unintentional language and behavior that contributes to a culture of violence. Other folks might start calling in their friends, family, and co-workers when they see or hear sexist jokes, microaggressions, or identity-based oppression. This can be awkward to practice at first, and that’s one of the reasons that Safe Passage offers a free community workshop series that gives people the skills and confidence to safely Say Something to interrupt violence. One great way to prevent violence on a community level is to raise awareness and visibility of the issue by showing your support of individuals and organizations working to address and prevent domestic violence. The generosity, trust and support that Safe Passage has received from our community through our annual Hot Chocolate Run is actually what has made our prevention work possible! As we approach the final weeks before the 2021 Hot Chocolate Run, now is the perfect time to get involved, and show your community that you believe that if we work together as a community, we can end domestic violence. Finally, you can also advocate for systemic change, and educate yourself and your networks about local, state, and national policy initiatives that support survivors and their families. Individuals who complete the Safe Passage volunteer training learn skills and receive ongoing support from our staff around legislative advocacy for sexual and domestic violence.
Prevention is Possible with your help! Each person has a role to play, and once you find a place where you can make a difference, we are one step closer to community accountability and safety for all.