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New campaign hopes to destigmatize domestic violence

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A new campaign launched by the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) shares the stories of survivors, in their own words, to decrease the stigma surrounding getting help. The #INAgainstDA campaign initially will focus on Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and Gary before spreading to the entire state.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, which led to victims being isolated with their abuser, the rate of domestic violence-related homicides has increased 100% in Indiana.

The organization spoke with 91 people throughout the state — a diverse pool of races, genders, sexual orientations, ages and locations — to gather information on the stigma they faced when they left abusive relationships. Unlike other domestic violence awareness campaigns, which are often directed toward victims, the ICADV campaign gives survivors an opportunity to share their experiences and ways others can help those in an abusive relationship.

“This campaign is very different to much of the messaging around domestic violence in the United States,” Laura Berry, executive director of ICADV, said. “By focusing on all Hoosiers, we hope to combat the stigma survivors face, and that the solutions are multifaceted.”

Colleen Yeakle, coordinator of prevention initiatives at ICADV, said survivors experienced stigma “in all directions.” Survivors are judged, she said, for staying too long and others are judged for leaving and not trying to “make it work.” Stigma comes from family, friends, faith groups and strangers.

Roughly 44% of Black women in America have been a victim of domestic or interpersonal violence, according to the Bureau of Justice. Interviews conducted by the ICADV found much of the stigma Black women face is compounded with racism and oppression.

“There was a lot of concern about reaching out to law enforcement,” Yeakle said. “That doesn’t feel safe for a lot of survivors, especially Black women and women of color. The stereotype of the ‘strong Black woman’ is also a deterrent to reaching out for help. There’s also concern about adding any more pressure to Black men.”

The campaign, which features signs and digital advertising, sheds light on the difficulties survivors face when leaving their abusers. Messages such as “It’s not that simple” and “It wasn’t safe for me to tell you” allow for victims’ voices to be heard. The other goal of the campaign, Yeagle said, is to help bystanders understand how they can help survivors.

“I think the best way to start is by asking, ‘How do you want me to help you,’” Yeakle said. “A lot of people make mistakes and mean well, and one thing a lot of people do is try to take over the situation without really speaking to the survivor. Asking them how you can be helpful, whether that’s being a listening ear or helping them get connected to services, is a good way to help.”

The ICADV will measure the success of the campaign by the reach of the campaign, the amount of materials shared and, most importantly, Yeakle said, by the feedback the organization gets from survivors and community members.

“We want survivors to know, we hear you. We believe you, and we’re here for you,” she said.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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