National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is coming to a close. Bev Gooden said, “I believe in the power of community. I believe there is strength within us as a collective.” Denton County Friends of the Family started as a domestic violence shelter in 1980. Domestic violence is the unfortunate reason for our agency’s existence, so bringing awareness to what we do and shining the light onto the darkness of this issue makes October that much more important for our community. Denton County is not exempt from the impact of such a prevalent crime. In fact, just released this week in the Texas Council on Family Violence’s “Honoring Texas Victims” report, there were three women killed in Denton County by their intimate partners last year. There were six in Collin County, thirteen in Tarrant County, and thirteen in Dallas County. Many people view domestic violence as a secretive issue, one that is personal, therefore not anyone’s concern but the person experiencing it. It is beliefs like these that make community involvement in Domestic Violence Awareness Month events even more important, necessary, and valuable. The purpose of the awareness events should always remain centered around three main goals – to mourn those who have died because of domestic violence, to celebrate those who have survived, and lastly to connect those who work to end violence.
Denton County Friends of the Family hosted a Kick Off Event on October 6th on the Courthouse on the Lawn in Denton, which included a candlelight vigil to remember the Texas women killed at the hands of an intimate partner the previous year – 146 in 2016 – 35% wives of the men who murdered them, 32% were girlfriends murdered by their boyfriend, 18% were ex-girlfriends of their murderers, 12% were wives separated from the abuser who then murdered them, and 3% were ex-wives of the man who killed them. The Kick Off Event also included The Clothesline Project; According to their website, The Clothesline Project originated in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1990 when members of Cape Cod's Women's Defense Agenda learned that during the same time 58,000 soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, 51,000 U.S. women were killed by the men who claimed to love them. The Clothesline is made up of t-shirts created by survivors of violence, or created in honor of someone who has experienced violence. It is a powerful witness of the violence many in which many live. The Clothesline Project provides evidence that incest, domestic violence, and sexual violence exists in our communities. It is a visual reminder of statistics that we often ignore. It gives a voice to those who have been forcibly silenced. Hopefully, it stirs us to action. A public must be informed about violence in order to act to prevent it. Most importantly, this project provides survivors with a venue to courageously break the silence and make us aware. This Clothesline Project is a tribute to them.
The agency also had its annual Rock N Stroll awareness concert at Denton’s Harvest House, which partners with local bands to raise awareness about domestic violence and notify people of Denton County Friends of the Family’s services in the community. Rock N Stroll has grown over the years through relationships with the amazing folks at Musicians Hub who connected us to the bands Remain and Puddin Taine (which this year linked us to In Spite of Madness). These bands believe in the mission of DCFOF and are not afraid to say so publicly. They kindly and generously donate their time and talent in order to make this issue more salient in the eyes of Denton County residents.
There were also many amazing groups and churches that hosted us and partnered with us this month to bring awareness to their specific communities – St. James AME Church, University of North Texas’ Football Team, Newton Rayzor Elementary School, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, SAFRAN, Morse Street Baptist Church, Flower Mound High School, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Town of Lakewood Village, North Central Texas College Corinth Campus, Little Elm Zellars Alternative School, McNair Elementary School, St. Andrew’s Church of God in Christ, Flower Mound Elementary School, Denton Feminist and Queer Collective, Flower Mound Police Department, Aubrey Police Department Block Party, Legacy Salon in Keller, Good Samaritan Society – Lake Forest Village, Antioch Christian Fellowship Church, The Village Church, and Lamda Theta Chi of UNT.
Domestic violence is never just about those experiencing it or witnessing it. It is about all of us. It takes all of us to make a difference. This is a community issue. We must stand together in solidarity for those being hurt to show that we will not accept or tolerate violence in this community.
Director of Prevention, Community Education, and Awareness Program