Q&A: Karen Days of the Where's The Line Campaign

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Center for Family Safety and Healing President Karen Days — and associates — believe domestic violence is a community problem, not a personal problem. That’s why Days and Co. are taking a unique approach to combating domestic violence in Central Ohio with the launch of the “Where’s The Line” campaign. Though most domestic violence campaigns urge victims to speak up, “Where’s The Line” urges bystanders to seek help for those who can’t through an anonymous resource call line, as well as text and instant message services. By connecting callers to resources and answering questions, Days believes “Where’s The Line” will allow bystanders to stop instances of domestic abuse in Central Ohio.

Whenit comes to domestic violence, Central Ohio is no different than anywhere else. On average, one-in-four women will experience domestic abuse in their lives — there are no caveats to that. That statistic isn’t one-in-four women of color, or one-in-four women in poverty; it’s one-in-four women. We also know that women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence. We are seeing growing numbers of men in heterosexual relationships not reaching out for help because of the stigma attached to the situation. In those cases, it’s really going to take people on the outside to reach out.

Campaigns targeting domestic abuse and violence are normally geared toward the victim. We are focusing on the bystanders and witnesses. In 26 years working in this field I’ve learned it takes a long time for a victim of domestic violence to reach out for help. Often victims of domestic abuse are too scared to come forward initially, and even then victims return to an abusive partner up to seven times before they leave for good. So with this campaign we decided to reach out to the bystander — the person who believes they have witnessed some form of abuse. Many times bystanders say they don’t know what to do, or what even constitutes abuse. We are offering them an alternative resource line where they can call in and ask our staff questions and get the information and resources they need. We are trying to get the rest of the community to be hyper vigilant, and be the person to say to victims, “You don’t have to take this on alone. I will help you.”

Many people have questions about what constitutes abuse and what is appropriate. Many times people don’t speak up because they aren’t sure what abuse looks like. For example, I’m often asked what the appropriate age is to leave small children with an older child alone, or if behaviors are signs of abuse. We hope we can provide guidance for bystanders in those situations, and make them more confident in their course of action. We can’t say, “We want you to get involved,” and leave those people with nothing — we want to give these people an effective game plan.

Domestic violence is everyone’s business.When a perpetrator of family violence finds out a victim has reached out for help, the instance of homicide largely increases. When a perpetrator understands that a bystander called for help, the victim is safer. The two main reasons bystanders don’t speak up when they witness abuse is because they don’t believe it is “any of their business” or they simply don’t know what to do. Many times even mandated reporters of abuse like teachers or counselors aren’t sure what they should be reporting, and are afraid of retaliation if they are wrong in their suspicions. By offering the resource line, text and instant message services through the “Where’s The Line” campaign, hopefully we can equip them with information and a safe, anonymous way to reach out.

Most people do care and are willing to help, but don’t realize abuse is happening. Many people believe they haven’t witnessed abuse in their lives until we show them the signs and symptoms of abuse; then they realize they do know somebody suffering from abuse. We want people to start to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships, so they can help others or themselves. Financial, sexual and emotional abuse is just as bad as blatant physical abuse. We need people to see that it [domestic abuse] doesn’t have to happen to you in order for it to be important.

Photo courtesy of Karen Days

Hometown: Columbus

Current neighborhood: Johnstown

Job title: President of The Center for Family Safety and Healing

Currently listening to: "Groove with You," by the Isley Brothers  

Website: familysafetyandhealing.org

Favorite movie: "Dead Again"

Favorite TV show: ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning"  

Favorite restaurant: Giuseppe's Ritrovo

Favorite beverage: Knob Creek on the rocks

Favorite part of 2014: Dec. 31 at 11:59! Long, tough year.