Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New York City Single Mom Supports "It's Time to Talk"

Recently, Liz Claiborne Inc. hosted their annual “It’s Time To Talk Day” to help spark a national conversation about parents taking action and talking to their children about having healthy relationships.

I was one of many bloggers invited to speak to several of "It's Time to Talk Day" guests to learn more about their organizations, what can be done to end the cycle of abuse and how and where victims can get help and how we can just get more involved with promoting healthy relationships.

Stacy Morrison,  Editor-In-Chief- REDBOOK
REDBOOK helped launch MADE (Moms and Dads for Education) to stop teen dating abuse. Stacy is committed to keep the focus on covering the organization within the pages of REDBOOK. According to Stacy, one in three women is impacted by domestic violence at some point in their life. That is such a staggering statistic to imagine that as you walk down the street 1/3 of the women you see will have been impacted by domestic violence. Because of those sobering and dramatic statistics, this is a topic "that is important for REDBOOK" to reframe the topic to ensure it remains top of mind to their readers. Before she left, she imparted that more and more teens are being impacted by domestic violence and that we need to do our part to break the cycle. She  encouraged me that it's never too early to start talking to my daughter about what is a healthy relationships.

Rita Smith, Executive Director - National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Ms. Smith has worked in the field since 1981, starting as weekend crisis counselor in a shelter in the Denver area. Her work involves engaging non-violent men in the conversation to make a significant chance with abusers. "These non-violent men can have more impact than say women can." I had never heard this take on how to end abuse but it makes sense to me. Men are so more likely to model themselves after men they see engaged in non-violent, loving relationships rather than get lectured to my social workers who are mostly women.
A disturbing comment that Ms. Smith told me was that within the Family Courts, the assumption is that women are lying about the violence being perpetrated against and that because of this belief, the abuser is able to gain custody of the children.  That truly shocked me. That so needs to be changed as every day you hear about women being abused and killed by boyfriends/spouses.

Marjorie Gilberg, Executive Director- Break The Cycle 
Ms. Gilberg's organization is working to build programs aimed at younger kids that stem out of bullying/harassment and is focused on having healthy relationships not just with boys but with friends. Lightbulb moment. Not only should we be teaching our children to have loving and respectful relationships with their partners but with their friends. My daughter needs to learn about "mean" girls and that she should not be bullied by them.

While my daughter is only 6, before you know it, she will be a teenager. I asked Ms. Gilberg how parents (and me should) act if we suspect our child is in an abusive relationship or we just don't like the boy. Her advice:

  • Continue to be engaged with your child as they may be isolated and cut off from their friends
  • Don't be judgmental and keep an open mind 
  • Respect the relationship, we often put down the relationship because the kids are so young but to them it's not puppy love it's true love 
  • Don't overreact (of course, easier said than done), don't impose more control and more rules, they will rebel
As domestic violence impacts more and more tweens/teens, we need to be aware that in most states, if you are under 18, you can't get a restraining order. Another shocking fact, in my opinion. 

Tim Gunn, Chief Creative Officer - Liz Claiborne, Inc. (LCI) 
I will be honest that I was little overwhelmed with all the staggering statistics by the time I met with Mr. Gunn. He was very generous in his time with me, telling me about all of LCI's involvement in domestic violence issues and their re-launch of the curriculum to include a section on digital dating abuse. He mentioned that "you can be the most well-dressed person but it can't mask who you are inside." So true, Tim. "We need to be who we are, be the individual." Needless to say, after the heavy discussion, we talked about living in New York. Did I mention how nice he was?

Leslie Morgan Steiner - NY Times best selling author
Meeting Ms. Steiner proves that no matter your education or income or job, you can be a victim of domestic violence.  She is the author of Crazy Love, her memoir about surviving domestic violence in her first marriage. We mainly talked about how the topic should be addressed with younger kids and especially how she addressed domesti violence with her own children. You need to provide "age appropriate sound bites", "own" the topic and "be open".  Great advice.

Needless to say, it was a draining experience but worthwhile. I learned some very sobering statistics but it also opened my eyes that we need to start early to plant the seed with our children about what a healthy relationship is, both with future boyfriend/girlfriends and also with their friends.

Finally, all of them said that if you suspect that someone you know or work with is a victim of domestic violence the best thing to do is just ask them "how they are doing" as a signal that you are a safe haven without being confrontational. They need to know that someone cares.


  • Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Moms and Dads for Education (MADE) to Stop Teen Dating Abuse’s website at http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/made for more information on the cause.
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) working to eliminate domestic violence, empower women and children and educated the public about domestic violence. 
  • Break The Cycle working to provide preventative education that teaches teens about domestic violence, healthy relationships and the law. Their site has an abundance of handouts that range from building healthy relationships to quizzes to safe online relationships. 



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