"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
1994: It started with three women: Fern, Janice, and Susan. Fern was determined that her granddaughter would never be exposed to the kind of abuse she had endured at the hands of her ex-husband. Janice first shared the gory details of her abuse during a live radio interview, leaving the interviewer and other guests speechless and causing dead air time. Susan had been involved in anti-domestic violence work for years, motivated by her own experiences with abuse.
Before it was all over, the campaign that these three women helped to launch accomplished these things:
- Successfully pressured the 8th District Police to collect data about its response to 911 domestic violence (DV) calls and allow the public access to the data;
- Successfully pressured the 8th District Police to agree to participate in roll call trainings on how to assist victims of domestic violence;
- Ignited a citywide public dialogue about the Chicago Police Department’s handling of 911 DV calls; and
- Created a coalition of social workers, police officers, attorneys, and others to coordinate the responses of local social service agencies, police departments, courts, hospitals, schools, and faith-based organizations to domestic violence.
There were other, unexpected, results:
- One of the three women was selected and sponsored by the Chicago Foundation for Women to represent local activists at the 4th International Women’s Conference in Beiing, China.
- One of the campaign participants observed that although she’d had individual counseling and gone to support groups, her involvement in the campaign brought her a new level of healing from her abuse;
- In Chicago, the most segregated city in America, a group of women in a white community joined forces with a group of African-American women also working for improved police response to DV, an Arab-American women’s organization, a social service organization serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community, and a group of 20-something activists – to address the issue of inadequate police response to domestic violence.
What kind of campaign did the women launch?
A grassroots, direct-action community organizing campaign.
Maybe you are wondering:
- “What do you mean, ‘grassroots’?”
- “What do you mean, ‘direct-action’?”
- “What exactly is community organizing anyway?”
For answers to these and other questions, check back here. Future posts will describe how a few determined women mounted a campaign that held local police accountable for their response to domestic violence calls.