By Amy Hytowitz, Vice President of Global Communications & Public Affairs Strategy at Edwards Lifesciences.
Every year, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, the United Nations and activists and organizations around the world unite for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. The campaign start is marked by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25) and lasts through Human Rights Day (December 10) – marking two of the most significant human rights awareness days. This year’s theme is: “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.” It’s a global call to action against the gender-based threats perpetuated by cultural norms, societal norms and more.
When Abuse is Close to Home
Relationship violence, especially against women, occurs in every corner of the world and Orange County is no exception. The opportunity to reach women and children at risk, and make a difference, is one of the reasons that Amy Hytowitz, Vice President of Global Communications & Public Affairs Strategy at Edwards Lifesciences, became a board member at Human Options. We asked Amy to share her perspective on how we can address relationship violence.
What can we do collectively as a society to help combat relationship violence and support those at risk?
Amy: It’s important to remember that we each have the opportunity to support those around us, and that we can use our voice to speak up when something is not right. The saying, “when you see something, say something” rings true. That doesn’t necessarily mean calling authorities if you suspect someone is hurting. It means taking that first step to reach out and offer to listen without judgment. When a woman shares her story of violence, she takes the bold and frightening first step toward breaking the cycle of abuse. Acting as a sounding board is an invaluable gift we can give to others. When listening to someone who is hurting, offering resources such as those we offer at Human Options can be incredibly helpful. We offer a Support Center with an emergency hotline, as well as resources to help with housing, legal advocacy and counseling if that is needed.
In your opinion, what’s important for us to know about relationship violence?
Amy: One of the biggest challenges with relationship violence is that people think it can’t happen in their community, so they push aside warning signs. There’s a common misperception that relationship violence only affects women in a lower socioeconomic status. In reality, relationship violence affects people in all communities regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, culture or religion. It’s rooted in a pattern of dominance and control. And besides being devastating both physically and psychologically, there’s the ongoing effect that can create a generational cycle of pain.
It is because of that misperception that four brave women started Human Options more than forty years ago. They were startled to learn that violence was perpetuated in their own backyard and wanted to provide a safe haven for all people in Orange County to live free of fear. Today, it’s one of the most powerful collectives for helping abuse victims in Orange County.
What else would you like to share about combating gender-based violence?
Amy: A couple of years ago at the start of the pandemic the United Nations published an article called Take action: 10 ways you can help end violence against women, even during a pandemic. Although we are past some of the stay-at-home orders and restrictions, the areas of focus that the UN highlights related to gender-based violence are truer today than ever before. A few of the important steps outlined in the article include teaching the next generation how to think about gender, respect, consent and human rights; learning the signs of abuse, and remembering that not all abuse is physical.
Last year we had a powerful speaker at a Human Options event. Rachel Louise Snyder is the author of “No Visible Bruises” which according to the New York Times “takes apart the myths that surround domestic violence: Restraining orders and shelters are always effective responses. Abusers never change. Visible signs of violence point to the greatest threat. Far from being a private or isolated act, domestic violence has links with mass shootings and is a direct cause of homelessness for more than half of homeless women.”
At the end of the day, it’s critical that we understand these multilevel factors that can lead and continue the cycle of abuse. If we can all remember to take a stand against violence, and listen when we see those hurting, we can be part of the solution toward building a safer world.
Thank you so much, Amy. We appreciate your dedication to Human Options to help further our fight against gender-based violence.
If you would like more information about 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, visit here.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact our 24-hotline at 877-854-3594.