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Campaign reframes domestic violence

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Domestic violence is a pervasive problem and in Monroe County. The number of reports to police have been on the rise for the past few years. The number of calls to Willow Domestic Violence Center’s crisis and support hotline jumped 21 percent last year, too.

As agencies and advocates work to address domestic violence, they’ve found that the term itself has its own set of problems. It’s ingrained in our language, and serves as a common shorthand for actions as disparate as subtle, psychological manipulation and severe physical violence, including murder.

This October, Willow is running a campaign aimed at trying to get the public to change how it fundamentally thinks about intimate partner violence and abuse. It’s taking aim at the very term “domestic violence,” which can serve as “a common way of expressing and then somewhat diminishing the abuse that people are experiencing,” Meaghan de Chateauvieux, the organization’s president and CEO, said. 
Willow Domestic Violence Center's ongoing public campaign aims to change the way people think about domestic violence. It uses displays, like this one on East Main Street, as well as posters and broadcast media spots to point out that common forms of domestic abuse are criminal acts. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Willow Domestic Violence Center's ongoing public campaign aims to change the way people think about domestic violence. It uses displays, like this one on East Main Street, as well as posters and broadcast media spots to point out that common forms of domestic abuse are criminal acts.


“They’re criminal acts,” de Chateauvieux said. “They’re just treated differently because we see them as a family issue.”

The campaign consists of outdoor ads, posters, social media clips, and TV ads that recast typical acts of domestic abuse as the criminal acts they are. The visuals also reference the state laws that make those behaviors a crime.

For example, one poster reads “GPS-tracks-my-car-and-phone violence,” and explains that under state law, that’s stalking.



For each of the past several years, Willow has run public campaigns during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Each effort has focused on educating people on the signs that may indicate a family member or friend is in an abusive relationship, as well as how to support domestic violence survivors.

Previous campaigns have had hopeful, strength-based messages, de Chateauvieux said. But domestic violence reports have been increasing in Monroe County and the per capita rate of reports is nearly twice the statewide rate, she said. The county also had 10 domestic violence homicides in 2018.

Willow, formerly Alternatives for Battered Women, marks its 40th anniversary this year. But with that milestone, de Chateauvieux said staff has realized how little has changed since the organization’s founding. Many of the barriers that survivors faced then are still a problem. And so when it came time to develop this year’s campaign, Willow leaders were comfortable developing something with more “moxy.”

“It’s a strong statement and I think that reflects a little bit of impatience with the community not recognizing the significance of this and the ways that we all need to come together to support survivors,” she said.

The campaign has one other component: a pop-up installation at the Public Market from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 26. The organization will set up a mock house, picket fence and all, in and around a former bakery. It’s meant to represent any house in Monroe County and each room will show traces of different domestic violence manifestations: a broken lamp for physical violence, credit card statements and loan rejection letters for financial abuse.

The installation — a house haunted by abuse — is meant to show people what domestic violence survivors live through, de Chateauvieux said. It’ll also include photos of and small statements about the 10 people killed in domestic violence related homicides last year.

The pop-up is designed to shield market-goers from what’s happening inside unless they deliberately enter and proceed, she explained. The walk-through ends in a safe room with counselors on hand to talk.

Willow has a crisis and support hotline that’s open every day around the clock. The voice number is (585) 222-SAFE and the text number is (585) 348-SAFE.

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com

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