In the 1980s, a campaign for international human rights sprouted from highlighted instances of domestic violence and sexual assault around the world.
The campaign was called “Thursdays in Black” and was a way for people to support women’s right to live in a world without violence, rape and fear. It later sparked the annual event Purple Thursday, which took place Oct. 20, 2016, for the 11th time, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States.
Middle Way House, a shelter in Bloomington for those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, is one of many organizations that celebrated Purple Thursday. In addition to celebrating Purple Thursday, Middle Way House has coordinated many other sexual violence prevention events and programs this year.
An education and advocacy center for the community, Middle Way House’s work continues beyond Domestic Violence Awareness Month and through post-election tension.
Established as a non-profit in 1971, Middle Way House’s model prioritizes strength-building. It is one of six National Model Domestic Violence programs. Middle Way House’s work with clients emphasizes achieving stability and independence from abusive relationships.
“We work on an empowerment model and want victims to make the choices that are best for themselves,” community programs coordinator Debra Morrow said.
While the organization aims to stop domestic violence perpetrated against anyone, they pay particular attention to its disproportionate effects on women, Morrow said. According to a 2011 report by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three Indiana women have been affected by violence within an intimate partnership.
Throughout October, Middle Way House had events to raise awareness of domestic violence and raise funds to support survivors. Among them were the XO Variety Show at the Bishop, which featured a lineup of local artists and performers; a panel on abuse and technology at the IU School of Global and International Studies; and other fundraisers throughout town.
The organization also had its Eighth Anniversary Benefit Show at the Comedy Attic. Jesse Eisenberg, who works with the organization, was the host of the show.
In November, Middle Way House was host to Hands Across the Trail, a rally to fight against sexual assault violence in public spaces around Bloomington. The rally emphasized the importance of bystander intervention and included speakers such as professor Dawn Johnsen of the Maurer School of Law and former Rachael’s Cafe owner Rachael Jones.
“The election has made people more insecure, and, as an agency, we want people to recognize that we will work to end violence in our community,” Morrow said.
Middle Way House is a member agency of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Indianapolis.
Colleen Yeakle, prevention initiatives coordinator of ICADV, said the coalition maintains supportive relationships with domestic violence prevention centers across the state by providing information, training and technical assistance. As parts of a statewide alliance network, ICADV and Middle Way House work closely together, she said.
Morrow said Middle Way’s crisis line calls have increased since the election. The shelter has been tracking hate crime calls to make distinctions between reports reflecting patterned domestic violence and those reflecting hate crimes, she said.
Yeakle said in the midst of intensified fears, it’s important to remember the perpetrators don’t represent the general sentiment.
“The people who are participating in hate crimes are outliers,” she said. However, it’s important to take each act of violence seriously.
“If we create connections in communities that prevent violence, we can stop other forms of violence,” she said.
These connections can also attract positive involvement for a range of social issues, she said.
Yeakle said campaign initiatives in recent years have focused more on messages of connection and support and less on violence statistics. “We should be showing every person that they have a role to play,” she said.
Morrow said that she wants those affected by violence of any kind to know the social service agencies of Bloomington are concerned and working for them.
She said Middle Way House is continuing its prevention work as always in accordance with its mission statement.
“The ultimate hope is that it’s not always just damage control when a situation arises,” Morrow said, “But that we can reach a point from preventing domestic violence.”
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