Sunday, 8 June 2014

In the Spotlight: Rebecca J. Smith



 In the Spotlight: Rebecca J. Smith, Communications and Public Awareness Program Manager at Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW)

Rebecca J. Smith is the Communications and Public Awareness Program Manager at Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW). Ms. Smith has wide experience in leadership, communications and counseling roles for such organizations as: the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice Minnesota, Shift and Robbinsdale Clinic, P.A. Her years of speaking-out for the rights of women and minorities  have equipped her for her latest role, to bring awareness of abused women so often silenced and forgotten in our society.


There is a little-known correlation between domestic violence and economic and weather patterns. University of Iowa professor Craig Anderson stated in his 2001 article Heat and Violence that there is a  2.6 percent higher murder and domestic assault rate in the summer months, as opposed to winter months. When the economy was at a low point in our nation, a report from Twin Cities Daily Planet found an unusual increase in domestic violence cases in Minnesota during the winter, and anticipated a spike in the summer. Of course, this is not a problem limited to the state of Minnesota, but all across the Midwest, our nation and beyond.


One collaborative effort to raise awareness about the shattering effects of domestic violence and sexual assault against women in Minnesota is The Annual Action Day to End Violence Against Women, held every year in March. This year’s event represented six statewide coalitions and activists who met with state legislators. Held in the rotunda of Minnesota’s state capitol building, over eighty youth participated in educational activities, and a series of dynamic speakers energized legislators and community members to take action. Speakers at the rally included Commissioner Mona Dohman of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, CeCe Terlouw with the Heartland Girls Ranch, Liz Kuoppala with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and CeCe McDonald, a survivor and activist.

Our interviewee, Rebecca Smith, was particularly moved by Ms. McDonald’s story. “CeCe was jailed for defending herself in a racist and transphobic hate crime,” Ms. Smith remarked. “Her voice, her experiences, her optimism and her awe-inspiring wisdom served as a powerful force in the halls of the capitol; as a reminder that when people are denied our basic human rights, our safety is not recognized.”


Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) is working hard to fight for access to basic human rights for women in Minnesota. Through public policy, public awareness, community collaboration and support for their member agencies, they provide a voice for battered women and their families. Policy work often extends into the court system. They advocate for strong court opinions that uphold legislative policies which improve conditions for victims.


“Domestic violence is not just about the individuals who suffer abuse; 
it is about an environment that promotes, excuses or ignores violence.”
  

MCBW was founded in 1978 by local emergency shelters and other organizations, to be one voice to influence public policy. Ms. Smith’s role at MCBW includes overseeing many projects including the Live Free Without Violence Campaign, the Clothesline Project, the Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial, the Youth Leadership Summit, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Annual Action Day and Annual Meeting.


The Live Free Without Violence campaign is one effort Ms. Smith is very passionate about. This campaign aims to increase community awareness and promote public involvement around domestic violence with support of the Femicide Report.  The Femicide Report lists the names of women and their children in Minnesota who have died from domestic violence and child abuse in the past year.

“We honor the lives lost to domestic violence, and provide individuals and community groups with a way to take action. Each time there is a domestic violence homicide in Minnesota, individuals and organizations display the Live Free Without Violence flag and/or a yard sign for one week to raise awareness around violence in our communities. Domestic violence is not just about the individuals who suffer abuse; it is about an environment that promotes, excuses or ignores violence. Providing services to victims of abuse is critical for those individuals; engaging the full community is essential for ending violence. The Live Free Without Violence campaign is one approach for wider, on-going community engagement.”

Despite the challenges, Ms. Smith is passionate about the progress we've made as a society, and a trend that’s come to be known as the “anti-violence movement.” This includes an innovative and collaborative energy among all those who work for women’s rights, which she describes as vital to community awareness.

 “One of our greatest needs is for intimate partner violence to be recognized as a public issue, rather than a private issue. It is essential for community members to see themselves as ‘first responders’. To support survivors, intervene in crisis by coordinating safety plans and accountability. Too often, domestic violence is seen as an issue ‘just between two people’. I believe we need to have daily  conversations about what it means to be safe; how to support ourselves and each other, and enact loving relationships.”

Many thanks to Rebecca Smith for her contribution. You may contact Ms. Smith at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, 60 East Plato Boulevard, Suite 130, St. Paul, Minnesota 55107. Her email address is bsmith@mcbw.org and her phone number is  651.646.6177


HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

How can YOU become a person-of-action just like Ms. Smith?

·         Consider taking advantage of resources from major organizations, like the links below.
·         Avoid reinventing the wheel! Create networks or liaisons with existing activist organizations.
·         Gather a group of like-minded people. There is strength in numbers!
·         Don't see it as an enormous task of huge proportions. Instead, break it down into small pieces, and set realistic goals.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

Donate to MCBW today! They rely on the financial support and partnership of community members to ensure they can continue the vital work of preventing and ending domestic violence in Minnesota. www.mcbw.org/#!donations/c1y2x 

Join the Live Free Without Violence Campaign to honor the lives lost to domestic violence. www.mcbw.org/flagcampaignfaq#c62r. Contact Rebecca Smith via email: bsmith@mcbw.org

The National Network to End Domestic Violence provides tremendous resources to end domestic violence. www.nnedv.org

INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming and Trans-people of Color Against Violence, is a national organization of activists of color ending violence against women www.incite-national.org

The Save Wiyabi Project is an advocacy group aiming to address violence against Native American women, as well as develop community based solutions for Native women, in both tribal and urban areas. “Like” their page and follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Save.Wiyabi.Project


From Women-in-Action

Christina L. Wiksell



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