Tracy Darling-DeMarcus, Prevention Program Manager
Preventing domestic, dating or sexual violence requires a myriad of strategies. There are individual, relational, community and societal level factors that all play a role in violence prevention. Social norms are one of the most powerful societal and community influences in shaping behavior. When those norms support harmful behaviors or normalize the tolerance of violence, it is more likely to happen. There are a number of harmful social norms that impact violence and one of these is the norm of privacy and silence.
Many people avoid talking about issues they view as embarrassing or shameful, like mental illness or relationship abuse. For generations, domestic and sexual violence have been treated as taboo and seen as an issue to be kept private or “no one else’s business”. But privacy and silence can lead to dangerous inaction, hopelessness and harm.
During May, Mental Health Awareness Month, we are challenged to break the stigma around mental illness, which means critically examining the beliefs we hold around privacy and silence. Do we value privacy or comfort more than someone’s health and safety? How can we challenge this harmful social norm? Break the stigma, break the silence.
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