Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Saving Promise founder L.Y. Marlow uses social media to teach prevention

We sat down with the advocate and domestic violence survivor to talk about the campaign and current legislation that aims to make domestic violence a thing of the past.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

A complex issue, domestic violence outcomes have not shifted much in recent years. President Clinton passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, which was created to provide legal, physical and emotional support to female victims of abuse. Still, almost two decades later, statistics show that one in three women have experienced, or will experience, intimate partner violence in their lifetime. A disproportionate number of these women are African-American.

Despite these odds, there are individuals rallying to improve protections for victims of domestic violence. During the month of October, L.Y. Marlow, the founder of Saving Promise, has asked people to pledge their allegiance to fighting domestic violence through her iPromise campaign. The first initiative of a three-to-five year plan, Marlow hopes her program will become a national call to action to eliminate this social ill. During the iPromise campaign, people have submitted stories and pledges to end domestic violence on the Saving Promise web site, and shared their pledges via social media.

We sat down with the advocate and domestic violence survivor to talk about the campaign and current legislation that aims to make domestic violence a thing of the past. After surviving generations of domestic violence in her family, Marlow’s goal is to make her personal fight political for the benefit of all.

theGrio: As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, can you share with us the end result of the iPromise campaign?

L.Y. Marlow: The response has been overwhelmingly positive for a number of reasons. We led this campaign with a positive empowering, message to show people that they can take action at a grassroots level through submitting their videos and letters. We also focused on partnering with a variety of organizations and in a matter of weeks we’ve gotten a couple commitments, one from American University. We’re launching iPromise on college campuses to reach a younger demographic and create a model for awareness.

What are signs women can look out for in men who may be abusive?

Does this person have a short temper, or treat you in a way that feels unnatural? Are they controlling? Most abusers are very controlling of your time, who you’re with, where you’re going. Do they isolate you from your friends and family? Do they make you feel responsible for their actions? These are some early warning signs that people can acknowledge and recognize. These questions can be applied to emotional, verbal and psychological abuse as well.

Coming from generations of domestic violence in your family, how much do you think nurture was involved in choosing to be with these men?

Research has found that young people or children who grow up in an abusive environment typically become a victim or perpetrator. That’s a fact. They’re 10 times more likely to become a victim or perpetrator because it’s a learned behavior. So the correlation is definitely there and it can become cyclical.

Will a physically abusive partner ever change?

Absolutely, I honestly believe that everyone should have an opportunity to change. The questions is: Are they ready? They need to be willing to take responsibility for their actions. Many times this is a hurdle because they’re in denial and can’t take responsibility for their behavior. Taking responsibility is also acknowledging that they need help. If they’re not willing to embrace the two requirements that will lead to change, then they can’t change.

With the introduction of social media, how has the landscape of domestic violence prevention changed? 

One of our strategies in terms of the prevention model is to embrace technology, particularly social media. We cannot look at this issue in old traditional ways. We have to meet people where they live, work and play. Social media is going to be a leading platform to form a more aggressive strategy to reach people. The students we’re working with said the number one way of leveraging a wider audience is through social media and they came back with suggested forms like Vimeo and Instagram. Almost 60 percent of students are on Instagram right now! So we’ve quickly instrumented these forms of social media into our strategic model.

Tell us your thoughts on the Violence Against Women Act. What are its strengths and its weaknesses?

I believe the Violence Against Women Act was historical legislation and put our country on the map, being the only legislative model at the time. Over the years, I think it’s done a great job of keeping domestic violence a priority in this country. However, when you look at the act… it’s just another hodge-podge of initiatives and programs — but we’re still behind the times. [During the last reauthorization]  I feel that there was an opportunity for us to really take a close look and see what needs to change, because it’s still a national crisis. We need to figure out what is not working, because the issue is getting worse. We need to look at this from a different angle and then we’ll be able to see some progress.

If you are interested in getting involved with Saving Promise, visit the Saving Promise web site.

Follow Danielle Kwateng on Twitter at @danispecialk.