Nineteen years ago the AMA Alliance began our SAVE program- Stop America’s Violence Everywhere. We observe SAVE Day on the second Wednesday of each October. The focus of the program has been to provide children’s anti-violence education through the use of placemats (Hands Are Not For Hitting) and booklets (I Can Choose, I Can Be, I Can Be Safe, You Can Handle Bullies) to elementary schools. We’ve had SAVE-A-Shelter and Adopt-a-School. In 2000, a grant from the AMA Foundation funded the creation of puzzles of the Hands placemat—a million of them-that were distributed throughout the country. Our work led us to participate in the National Health Care Collaborative on Violence and Abuse.
My local newspaper, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, recently quoted Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian, “Some of the worst violence in the world today between estranged religious and ethnic groups happens not on the battlefields. It happens smack in the middle of living rooms and between people who share a lot, who have a lot in common.”
It is important to look at our SAVE program in context to what was happening in our country. Twenty years ago, there were two things that had huge impact:
- The bipartisan Federal Violence Against Women Act was passed. This legislation gave support for programs at the local level for legal aid, law enforcement and advocates in non-profit organizations.
- Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered and her ex-husband, ex-NFL football player O.J. Simpson was facing charges for the crime. This case brought media attention like nothing else to the issue. It is ironic that a recent case of intimate partner violence involving an NFL player has done the same.
In 1995, as incoming county alliance president, I was in Chicago when the SAVE Program was launched in Chicago. The issue spoke to my heart as a young mother and nurse. Working with this project has altered my personal and professional journey. One thing led to another and my involvement led to serving as executive director of the Community Coalition on Family Violence.
Ten years ago, the VAW Act was renewed with funding to create Family Justice Centers. Our Coalition applied for a $1 million grant and opened one of the first fifteen “one stop” centers for service for domestic violence. The movement has spread, not only at the Federal level, but also in my home state of TN. Governor Bill Haslam, who was incoming county mayor when we applied for our FJC grant, understands the issues and has created a statewide initiative for more centers. It is an honor to serve on the board of the Knoxville Family Justice Center and support its progress.
Until intimate partner violence is not acceptable anytime, anywhere; until it truly affects the pocketbooks of sports and business corporations so that those in power will take a stand that intimate partner violence is wrong and perpetrators are held accountable, women will still be afraid to seek help and to get out of these harmful relationships. Children will still think that hands ARE for hitting because they see the violence between the adults in their homes.
The message of SAVE-that Hands are NOT for hitting-is a timeless one.
There is more work to be done. Alliance members are well suited and well positioned in their communities to carry the message. What we do may be a “plink in the bucket,” but it is a good sound that can resonate and make a difference-one child at a time, one adult who gets a safety card paid for by an alliance grant, one adult who gets a care package in a shelter, one person who makes a call to a help line after seeing a poster in a doctor’s office. The message to Stop America’s Violence Everywhere is just as relevant today.
Jo Terry, Immediate Past President
October 8, 2014