Guest column: Creating peaceful communities

Sometimes it is disheartening to be part of the movement to end violence against women and children. In July, four women and one young child who were living in or from Idaho were killed as a result — direct or indirect — of domestic violence.

The public silence over the deaths of five human beings during the month of July is explained by psychologists as “empathy avoidance”— we distance ourselves from the domestic violence homicides, “othering” the women and children who have been killed.

Here’s the thing about these women and children: The young girl who was killed and the eight children now without a mother were human beings who were connected to each of us as part of our community.

Amber Schwenn, 23, recently took a selfie with her phone — mother and her 3-year-old daughter, strapped into a car seat, both sticking out their tongues, laughing. Amanda worked at the Payette Burger King and was the mother of two children.

Jeanetta Riley, 35 and a tribal member, had four young daughters and recently took them all to the lake in northern Idaho to swim. One of her daughters lost a tooth and Jeanetta captured the moment on her camera.

Facunda Valenzuela Leon, 24, of Post Falls was the mother of three young daughters. Her 6-year-old daughter, Dayanna Valencia, had curly dark hair and a big smile.

MacKenzie Madden, 19, lived in Nampa and Boise most of her life and recently graduated from Utah State University magna cum laude. Her dream was to work for the FBI.

We pretend that it won’t happen to us, to anyone we know. We avoid negative feelings that come from thinking about upsetting, often horrific and brutally violent situations. We ignore societal problems, believing them inevitable or too big and costly to address.

There is too much at stake to continue on this path of destruction and devastation of families and communities. We all have the responsibility to end violence against women and children, communities, and especially women and children in marginalized communities with fewer opportunities and access to resources.

We might begin by believing in the power of human connectedness and in practicing empathy for others. By widening our circle of compassion, we can create healthy relationships and end abuse.

We each have the ability to create compassionate, peaceful communities, where violence against women and children is no longer a common occurrence. We can each choose to treat one another — our children, our partners, our coworkers — with compassion and loving kindness. What is it that holds us back? What is it that makes us want to control and dominate? What is it that makes us close our hearts? We might begin by paying attention to our own insecurities and fears.

Let’s see our commonalities, celebrate our differences and avoid stereotypes or assumptions that distance us from those who are hurt by abuse. Teach and model healthy, respectful relationships. Find a way to safely confront those using abuse against others and hold them accountable. Reach out to anyone who may be experiencing abuse. Talk to them. Let them know they are not alone, that someone cares. We can do better.

Miller is executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual &Domestic Violence.

Miller is executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence.