For nearly 30 years, October has been recognized nationwide as Domestic Violence Month and has drawn attention to a social epidemic that can occur in any relationship regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.
Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County held the third annual Men’s Cocktail Party at Santa Barbara Auto Group last Thursday evening to promote Men Against Domestic Violence and offered donation opportunities to programs ensuring the safety of families throughout Santa Barbara County.
More than 60 gentlemen gathered in the BMW showroom at 402 Hope St. for an informal affair to support DVS, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelters and a full range of programs structured to draw awareness and educate and aid victims of domestic violence.
DVS executive director Richard Kravetz shifted the event into fourth gear as he addressed the male-dominated group.
“I want to talk about the men, not as abusers and not as perpetrators, but men as victims,” said Kravetz.
Kravetz explained that upwards of 10 to 15 percent of the victims of violent attacks in the home are men but emphasized that the statistic is an estimate and the numbers are under-recorded because men living in Santa Barbara County fail to reach out for the agency’s services.
“If you’ve heard that what traps women in the cycle of violence is the shame and isolation of it then imagine for a minute what it would be like to be a man and a victim of domestic violence.”
Kravetz also noted that young boys who witness violence in the home between adults are likely to be subjects of physical abuse and are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
“I wanted to talk to this group at our annual men’s event and share that with you because this is something we experience in the trenches that is not talked about.”
DVS, the only full-service domestic violence agency in Santa Barbara, is determined to stop the cycle of violence by breaking the silence of abuse through a series of public education, community-based outreach programs.
Up to 35 volunteers work in shifts to operate a 24-hour support and crisis hot line that is available to victims or at-risk victims of domestic violence. The trained advocates assist the Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team with all 9-1-1 domestic violence calls and provide child supervision at housing sites. Additionally, DVS has incorporated the work of Anger Management Counseling Services into its prevention and intervention services.
DVS teen programs also promote a series of events and activities designed to increase awareness about the epidemic of teen violence in Santa Barbara County, such as National Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in February when DVS and Community Partners launched the What Is Love outreach program.
Additionally, the DVS teen program orchestrated a Teen Dating Violence Awareness Assembly at Dos Pueblos High School on Oct. 12 with a real-life multimedia story from a teen dating violence survivor that educated teens about legal rights and defined physical, emotional and sexual forms of abuse in comparison to teens in healthy relationships.
“Most of the violence that occurs at our schools is tied to dating violence, so we try to intervene and reach out to youths by going into the schools,” Kravetz said. “We want to reach every single high school student in the community.”
The organization recently implemented the Most Valuable Leader Program in which young role models from athletic teams are trained to work as spokespeople for DVS in exchange for community service hours.
“Something you can do outside of the DVS perimeters is to speak out,” guest speaker Judge George Eskin said. “All of you who have involvement with young boys in AYSO, basketball or Boy Scouts should look for opportunities to explain that hitting other people off the playing field is not OK.
“If they come from an environment where dad is beating up mom regularly and she is too ashamed to do anything about it, that is what they’re going to learn, and we see in court that the cycle goes on-and-on.”
DVS, formally known as Shelter Services for Women until the agency changed its name in 2001, was established in 1997 after participating in the CETA-funded “Violence in the Family” project that fostered the opening of the first emergency shelter in Santa Barbara.
The need for more safe housing for victims of physical abuse countywide spawned the opening of a second shelter in Lompoc a year later, and a third shelter followed in Santa Maria.
Initially, the average stay for women at the shelters ranged from 30 to 45 days, but the agency determined that at-risk residents required more time to establish their own households. As a result, DVS launched a second-stage residency program offering a range of advocacy services and 90 percent success rate helps clients establish their own households within a year.
DVS recently unveiled a media campaign to stop the violence and end the silence across Santa Barbara County by promoting a series of public service announcements on local radio, TV and the Internet.
“The message I’d like to leave with you tonight is that there is something we can do about this,” Kravetz said. “We have an agency in Santa Barbara that is doing this work effectively, and you can help make this a community issue and not a woman’s issue, and we can start to make a change.”
DVS for Santa Barbara County thanks Santa Barbara Auto Group and the DVS Men’s Committee for support and sponsorship of the third annual Men’s Cocktail Party.