Brian Schreiber on June 16, 2017
For the fourth year in a row, I am joining scores of regional leaders in signing the Father’s Day Pledge #FathersDayPledge #SouthwestPASaysNoMore.
This declaration calls attention to the urgency to break the generational cycle of violence for children, teens and young adults by changing social norms around gender and partner violence of any kind.
I remain engaged in this effort as a parent of two teenagers and a desire for them to inherit a less violent and more compassionate society. The statistics do not paint an encouraging picture. One in four girls is sexually abused in childhood; one in five college-age women are sexually assaulted; and one in three women are victims of violence by an intimate partner. Partner and domestic violence knows no prejudice where religious, educational, economic, political or age differences are concerned.
For me, the #FathersDayPledge and the #SouthwestPASaysNoMore campaigns go beyond organizational priorities and religious values. It’s personal and centered on increasing awareness and action in our neighborhoods and throughout our region. And it’s consistent with Jewish tradition’s integration with social activism: Do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds. (Leviticus 19:16). Progress means more men joining women in this movement, seeing young adults intervening in situations when they witness abusive behaviors, and talking to our children about expectations we have for the kinds of relationships they will share with partners and peers.
The cause took on new meaning this month, when our Board of Directors unanimously approved expansive language in our membership policy to explicitly incorporate gender identity and gender expression – recognizing the growing number of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals seeking inclusion in society and at the JCC. I did not immediately recognize the connection between our expanded policy and the gender violence movement until I understood that people who belong to any “marginalized” group face a much higher risk of sexual assault and partner violence. I was unequivocally confronted with a data set of disturbing statistics from the LGTBQ community. The Center for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66% often coupled with physical assaults or abuse.
As uncomfortable as these statistics are is the promise of a growing movement redefining what can be done to reduce gender violence at all ages and for all affected populations. Our organization has supported nearly 2,000 men, boys, women and girls to sign the Father’s Day pledge over the past several years, facilitated education programs within our camps and athletic programs to teach role modeling behaviors for our youth, and train our workforce around intervention strategies. These actions mirror similar efforts throughout our region and around the country.
The late Rabbi Yoachim Prinz declared during the historic civil rights march in Washington in 1963: “Neighbor is not a geographic term, it is a moral concept.” In keeping with the ethical beliefs encompassed throughout many faiths to “love your neighbor as yourself,” I ask all individuals to sign the pledge to end gender/ intimate partner violence. Take advantage of celebrating the role of positive parenthood in our homes and in our communities. Your children and their children can only stand to benefit from your actions today.
Brian Schreiber is the CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and serves on the advisory board of Standing Firm: The Business Case to End Partner Violence.