Cerca de casa: una respuesta comunitaria a la violencia doméstica
Las conversaciones alrededor de la mesa son sinónimo apertura y confianza. Una organización de Boston invita a grupos de 8 a 10 personas a reunirse alrededor de la mesa para hablar sobre un tema tabú como la violencia doméstica. De esta manera no sólo se comparten experiencias, sino que también se establecen lazos entre la comunidad y las diferentes instituciones.
The “kitchen table” is a symbol of comfort and security – a place for safe and honest conversation and welcome advice. It can also be a tool to help confront the most private and secret of crimes -- domestic violence.
Close to Home, a non-profit in Boston, Massachusetts, brings domestic violence out of hiding by inviting groups of eight to ten friends, neighbors, or family members to gather around someone's kitchen table for dinner to have a structured conversation about this widespread but often unspoken problem.
"Believe it or not, the conversations about this topic have been energizing and fun because so many people have a direct or indirect experience with this and it has been a really positive and healing experience to finally have a place where they can talk about it," said Aimee Thompson, who founded Close to Home in 2002.
As a community organizer and domestic violence advocate, Thompson regularly spoke to community groups about violence against women, but was often met with silence. This shocking indifference forced her to quickly switch her approach.
"After those early civic meetings, it became clear people weren't ready to talk about domestic violence in a large setting because the meetings were too big," she said. "It wasn't a safe place to start talking about this issue, so we decided to try smaller settings.”
Close to Home's first "kitchen table" group convened in 2000, initiated by a woman who invited a small group of friends and neighbors. "It was an amazing conversation because a number of the women in the group had experienced domestic violence and had known each other for 20 years, but they had never talked about this," Thompson said.
The problem is rampant. Despite efforts by police and social justice agencies in the United States to address domestic violence, an average of three women are murdered every day by their husbands or boyfriends. Thirty-one percent of women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, and around the world at least one in every three women has been abused or coerced into sex.
Thompson believes that the responsibility for intervention and treatment cannot rest solely in the hands of institutions. Rather to effectively respond to and prevent violence, she works to engage women’s close networks of friends and family—those who are typically the first to hear about domestic violence problems.
The kitchen table discussions generate a wealth of creative ideas, fueling some of the residents to translate these insights into concrete strategies for fighting local domestic violence. Close to Home helps them form leadership teams that meet on a regular basis, providing support in facilitating conversations, planning and organizing community activities, and fundraising.
Close to Home also serves as a bridge between community members and institutions, educating the community about available services, and helping to improve the responsiveness of social service agencies. It has invited counselors and advocates from local community health centers to attend kitchen table conversations so they can exchange information and get feedback from the community.
"Doing community organizing around domestic violence is different than working on other issues like housing or the environment, because of the intense personal nature of this issue," Thompson said. "We have learned a lot about trying to find the balance between being an action-oriented group that wants to do something, and allowing people to come together to process their own experience and what this issue has meant in their lives."
The silence surrounding the issue of domestic violence needs to be smashed for good. Organizations like Close to Home provide a foundation of support that serves as a cushion as well as springboard for those affected by violence to speak up and change lives, but domestic violence is still a global crisis. Are community activists being heard?