A historical outline of the battered women’s movement, compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), unfolds an astounding insight into an infamous saying we all have used without understanding of its origin. Going back to 753 BC, during the reign of Romulus in Rome, wife beating was permitted under the Laws of Chastisement. A husband was held liable for crimes committed by his wife, therefore the law permitted the husband to beat his wife with a rod, as long as its circumference was no greater than the girth of the man’s right thumb. This is where we get the commonly used phrase “The Rule of Thumb.”
Moving forward in time to the United States, Minnesota was a pioneer state for having the first domestic violence hotline and battered women’s shelter, also known as a ‘women’s refuge.’ In 1973, Women’s Advocates Inc. opened its doors in St. Paul and is still thriving today providing services for up to 50 women and children every day.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence brought about a monumental movement by 1981, by observing a Day of Unity each October to which the day evolved into what we now know as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is intended to connect battered women’s advocates across the Nation that are working to end violence against women and their children. According to NCADV approximately 30 percent of women murdered in the U.S. are murdered by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. The purple ribbon is used as a symbol to honor the victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
By the end of 1981, Ascension Church Convent in North Minneapolis became the first transitional housing on the Northside for women in crisis, started by the Sisters of St. Josephs Carondelet. Over the next decade Ascension Place Inc. faced a rapid rise in the number of families in crisis and in 1990 opened up an emergency shelter named St. Anne’s Place. In 2011 Ascension Place Inc. established a third program to provide permanent supportive housing for women and all three housing programs are now known as Haven Housing.
Haven Housing provides support for women facing complex barriers to housing such as domestic violence. Trina Sletto, Director of Community Outreach, explains, “It is important to provide trauma informed care, being that 99 percent of women that visit the shelter have experienced some form of domestic abuse, and the goal of the program is to provide women in crisis or transition with a stable environment and opportunities to explore options for their future.” Sletto asks residents of Haven Housing how they feel about the program and one mother states, “The things I learned while being here have helped me every day during my struggle to get my life back.” Another resident states “Everyone here is in the same boat and understands what you’re going through. It’s important for us to support each other in this community, rather than work against each other.”
During the month of October we salute the advocates, writers and all staff who have committed their lives to the movement to end this domestic violence epidemic, and we also take time to remember the victims. You can view the 2016 MN domestic homicide victims in the Femicide Report at MBWC.org or watch the Femicide Report video at JMF 2016 Femicide Report Video -YouTube.
You can also get involved by donating toiletries to Haven Housing. Families are always in need of basic supplies such as feminine hygiene products, shampoo-conditioner, tooth pastes-brushes-floss, deodorant, socks, underwear and body wash/soap. For delivery instructions call Trina Sletto at 612-588-0861.
Remember; “Domestic Violence is Everybody’s Business.”
This article was written by Niema Broadnax