TCADSV looks at past; aims for future

Photo by Abby Morris
Diane Stuart, national director of the Office of Violence Against Women, spoke Friday at the TCADSV anniversary celebration in Nashville about domestic violence prevention.

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
NASHVILLE - Members of the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (TCADSV) met in Nashville this weekend to celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary, to consider past achievements, and to set goals for the future.
The TCADSV was formed in 1983 when the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence and the Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual Assault joined forces to create a united front to end violence against women. When the TCADSV was born, five programs were initiated in the state. Now, 20 years later, the organization is responsible for more than 65 such programs.
In the past 20 years, the organization has accomplished much, including public policy initiatives which have led to the passage of more than 80 new laws, and $1.7 million in state funding established for domestic and sexual violence programs. Such advancements led to the establishment of the Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council and the Victims of Crime State Coordinating Council.
Additionally, the TCADSV has trained more than 8,000 law enforcement officers to be aware of signs of domestic and sexual violence.
"When I think of the number of women and children and men who are alive because of our work and your dedication, I am overwhelmed," said Kathy Walsh, executive director of the TCADSV.
Those who attended the anniversary celebration also heard from Sheryl Cates, executive director of the National Domestic Violence hotline, who spoke on how domestic violence and the fight to end it has changed over the last two decades. "Today we can say this is not just a women's issue," she said. "We first heard it as a women's issue as women spoke about violence against them. Now we see this is a community issue."
According to Cates, only 20-25 percent of domestic or sexual violence victims report their abuse. She also stated that the national hotline handles approximately 16,000 calls a month.
Cates also explained how violence itself has changed. "Before, we thought the batterer would only hurt their intimate partner but now that is not the case," she said. "Batterers are now going into the workplace and killing others there and they are killing law enforcement officers."
Those who attended the celebration also considered where the fight against violence will take them.
One important goal, according to Diane Stuart, director of the Violence Against Women Office under the U.S. Department of Justice, should be a more intense focus on violence prevention.
"Violence against women and against men is on a continuum," Stuart said, positioning herself on the stage to illustrate her point. "It may start way over there with whatever you and I both agree is probably a non-violent act, but as we start moving in this direction with name calling, demeaning someone, psychologically game-playing with them, all of those kinds of things, we come down further and we begin to get physical with the pushing, the shoving, the hitting, the slapping.
"And somewhere around here there is the period of weapons being involved, a gun, a knife, a pitchfork, a pen or a pencil, depending on its intended use. All of these weapons begin to come into play. Strangulation happens. I personally think strangulation is attempted murder; tough to prove; tough to deal with. It is serious, a lot more serious than we know. Then going down to whatever behavior causes death."
According to Stuart, the continuum of violence occurs in all socio-economic levels. "And what do we know about it? It increases in severity and frequency over time," Stuart said. "So, if that's true and we catch it earlier here because of our awareness of someone saying 'He's never hit me yet, but he did shove me; he did push me; he gets into my face; he points on my chest.'
"Now did you hear that I said that she said 'He never hit me yet but he did shove me? It's the definition of what is abusive. All of these kinds of things have an impact. If we can get these women to learn what is abusive to them maybe we can prevent the violence."
According to Stuart, 65 percent of children who grow up in an abusive home will grow up to continue the cycle of violence either by becoming abusers themselves or by becoming victims of abusive partners.