Breaking the Silence on Domestic Violence

A new report by the Avon Foundation for Women reveals an alarming silence on domestic violence in America despite its widespread prevalence.

Two-thirds of Americans surveyed say they have never had a conversation about domestic violence among their friends, and only 15 percent consider the issue a problem among their friends, according to the “NO MORE Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults” study. This comes despite the fact 22 percent of people said they were victims of domestic abuse themselves, and 60 percent reported personally knowing a victim.

Companies like Verizon Wireless, however, are working with organizations and using technology to raise awareness and start conversations about the issue.

For example, Verizon Wireless recently organized a Google Hangout webcast that focused on the early warning signs of abuse in teen relationships at a store in Marina del Rey, Calif., outside Los Angeles.

Hosting the Hangout were blogger Maria Quiban of Mommy Loves Tech, singer and Internet star A.J. Rafael, YouTube star and singer Chris Thompson, singer Ryan Beatty, and Marissa Presley from the local domestic violence shelter Laura’s House. The Hangout allowed group audio and video chat on computer screens for participants to ask the panel questions that sparked an online discussion.

“It’s really great to be around people who want to talk about it [abuse],” Rafael said. “Most people don’t speak up, that’s the biggest thing. It’s important that our voices are heard, and doing it through social media makes an even bigger impact.”

The Avon Foundation for Women’s survey also found three-quarters of parents with children under 18 say they have never talked about the issue with their kids. At only 15 years old, domestic violence survivor Kayla Tibbet is proof of the need to raise the issue with young people. The Orange County, Calif., teen was in an abusive relationship with a former boyfriend and only mustered the courage to report it after she was sexually assaulted.

Tibbet serves as an advocate for Laura’s House, a shelter for domestic violence survivors based in Orange County, and has made several appearances on Los Angeles television to discuss the topic. She uses her personal experience to educate people about resources available to victims. 

“I always felt like I had this gift of being able to help people,” Tibbet said. “Looking back, I think my abusive relationship was preparing me for things that would happen later in life. I’m able to be there for these people and give them the courage to speak up.”

Verizon has supported Laura’s House with grants of cash, prepaid phones and free airtime for a decade. The shelter is one of many across the U.S. that, combined, provides emergency services for nearly 70,000 victims every day. The shelters, however, are often stretched for resources, as they typically rely on government grants and private donations.

Verizon’s HopeLine program recycles and refurbishes no-longer-used cell phones, using the proceeds to support local shelters like Laura’s House. Since 2001, the company has awarded shelters nearly $20 million in cash grants and donated 151,000 pre-paid cell phones loaded with nearly a half billion minutes of free airtime. Those in shelters use the phones to connect to the outside world, from calling to enroll their children in school to making doctor appointments to communicating with an employer or potential employer. 

Main photo: FOX 11 Los Angeles anchor Maria Quiban (speaking), hosted the HopeLine Google Hangout to talk about teen relationships and recognizing the warning signs of abuse at the Marina del Rey, Calif., Verizon Wireless store. Singer A.J. Rafael, blogger Marissa Presley and singer Ryan Beatty (left to right) contributed to the online discussion.