A client, a victim of domestic violence, in a Community Meeting in Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh’s (WC&S) looked over at me in the meeting noticing the shiny gem on my sandals. Her gaze continued to catch the reflection of light off the gem and her eyes kept moving from the sandal to my eyes. After the meeting had concluded, the client came over to me, looked me in my eyes and said, “I miss my shoes.” This statement is truly profound in that she does probably miss her shoes, but for this woman, the statement is so much deeper. She misses her home - she misses peace for herself and her children - she misses her life before the violence. As I looked back, I noticed the bruise on the woman’s right cheek. Could this act of violence that caused the bruise have been avoided if the woman had come into the shelter earlier by a week, or even a day?
Domestic Violence is not a singular incident, Domestic Violence is an incomprehensible problem deeply rooted in our culture and these numbers are proof:
3 The number of women murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the U.S.
20 The number of people every minute that are victims of intimate partner violence.
1 in 3 The number of women who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
7,000,000 The number of women raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner each year.
10,000,000 The number of children exposed to domestic violence every year.
I think of the woman in the community meeting that “missed her shoes” and I look at the numbers; the staggering statistics that show how many women live through the ugliness of intimate partner violence and I realize that I can make a difference. It has been long recommended that in order for the fight against domestic violence to be effective, prevention efforts need to address individuals, families, communities and a culture over a long period of time. No one group has the capacity to do this, but through collaboration much more becomes possible.
There are multiple avenues for a woman to enter shelter; she can come in after calling a Hotline and receive help in creating a safety plan, or she can come in escorted by the police after a violent situation with her significant other. Because of the efforts of WC&S and Newton Consulting, women are now getting safely to shelters by using the RUSafe App. The RUSafe App was tested locally in Pittsburgh, PA and now has expanded nationally allowing women across the country to access this life-saving tool. RUSafe is a free “dangerous relationship assessment” app; it is a screening tool designed to help educate women to the risk of domestic violence, homicides, serious injury and re-assault of domestic violence victims. The app asks the woman a series of questions. If her answers indicate that she may be in danger she will be prompted to call her local domestic violence hotline based on the GPS of her phone. If she scores low, she will not be prompted, but she will be encouraged to call the local domestic violence hotline for free and confidential help and support if she has concerns about her relationship that she would like to discuss. If she is in immediate danger, the app directs her to 911. RUSafe is based on the ‘Danger Assessment’ developed by Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN of John Hopkins School of Nursing. Additionally, Pittsburgh Steeler, Will Gay, is the national spokesman for RUSafe.
I speak from personal experiences with my family and close friends – I have personally seen the damage and sadly the destruction where lives were lost. These women didn’t have the tools in their hands to guide them to safety. I believe so passionately that the RUSafe App can both protect and save lives that I have volunteered to become the Coordinator of the National Marketing Campaign which I have developed for the RUSafe App. Please join me in the fight against domestic violence. It has become my personal crusade, as well as WC&S, to get the RUSafe App in as many hands of those in danger as possible across the United States. Spread the word and help Women’s Center & Shelter get the RUSafe App on as many phones as possible. The RUSafe App very well may have already saved a life, if not many lives. It may have changed the path of a woman who otherwise would have not received potentially life-saving help. Download it yourself and encourage friends and family to do the same. Together, we are no longer bystanders. With this app, we have the ability to help ourselves and to help those around us. Together we can save women’s lives.The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings