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Each of Us Can Do Something

A Guest Blog by David Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney. David is the co-chair of Massachusetts White Ribbon Day 2015.

David Sullivan The walk down the long corridor of the Hampshire Probate & Family Court ended at my office. Right next door was the Safe Plan office, a place dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence seek protection from an abusive current or former partner. On too many occasions, I saw mothers with their young children playing with a toy or filling out a coloring book. It made me sad, it made me angry, it woke me up to the fact that domestic violence really existed in my community. It was a daily walk I took for 8 years as the Chief Administrator for the family court. But my walk was so much easier than the journey each of these victims took to seek help for themselves and their children.

It is the faces of these survivors that I keep in the forefront of my mind. As overwhelming as it may seem, I have learned that each of us can do something to end and prevent violence against women. In that role and as District Attorney for Hampshire and Franklin counties and the town of Athol for the past 4 years, I have had the good fortune to witness the courage of survivors and the kindness and caring of sexual and domestic violence advocates who provide counselling and support.

I grew up in a family of eight. My mom and dad, 4 brothers, and a sister shaped my upbringing. Amidst the chaos of raising 6 kids, and the personal challenges and frustrations that came with it, my dad’s kindness toward my mother stood out above all things. He gave me one of the most important things you can give to a son, a great model of respect, love and kindness in a relationship. I aspire to be like my dad with my wife and 3 daughters.

As a father, one of my greatest fears is that one of my daughters will find her true love and that person will end up being abusive or that fear of violence against women in general will limit her choices. The best way for me to prevent this from happening is for me to be a good model of manhood that embraces kindness and respect for others. I also want to raise daughters who are strong, smart, and brave and who know that their parents and friends are always there to help with any challenge.

We can each be active bystanders in the fight to end sexual and domestic violence. As a father, uncle, grandfather, or male friend, we have the opportunity to set the bar high for boys and young men in our lives on how to treat girls and women with respect, equality, and kindness. We can win this fight if we work together to make it unacceptable to dominate, control, and hurt an intimate partner.

My dad used to say, “You can be part of the problem or part of the solution, take your pick”. We can each make a choice to be part of the solution in our school or workplace, on our sports team, and in our family.

I hope my legacy is that I tried my best to never see another woman and child at the end of the courthouse corridor waiting to seek protection from an abusive partner or another victim seeking justice after a sexual assault. I invite you to join me in encouraging everyone you know to take the White Ribbon pledge and be part of the solution.