One of the things keeping me busy is the usual rounds of agency meetings, where I try and explain what BACA is, what we do, and how we can help. It's getting easier, but still feels like pulling teeth.
One thing I keep running into is the question of violence. Folks see us, and think we're nothing but "hired guns", or vigilantes. And react accordingly.
Let me quote the part of the Mission Statement that causes this:
...however, if the circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle protecting a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.
People hear that, and think we're all about beating up abusers.
Folks, everyone who focuses on that sentence completely misses the mission of BACA (indeed, what SHOULD be the mission of advocates in general):
...who focus on empowering children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live.
That, right there, should be the most important factor for advocates: to empower victims to become survivors (and, as was mentioned at our local SARC meeting, "thrivers").
Still, I'm always asked about violence. "Is your group willing to use violence? Because we don't condone..."
Let me set the record straight. We don't condone or encourage violence against abusers. Personally, I would rather never see the abuser in a case except at court. Unfortunately, we sometimes have an abuser who feels they can intimidate our little brothers and sisters off the witness stand.
What are we supposed to tell these children? What would make them feel safer: "The only way Chester is getting to you is through me", or "If Chester comes around, I'll call the police and take notes on everything that happens"?
Were I the child, I'd feel better hearing option one, especially coming from a large intimidating guy. Option two just wouldn't fill me with much confidence.
This is not to say we're looking for a fight: far from it. At least in my chapter, we concentrate on "minimum force": we will use only as much force as is necessary to stop a threat. So far, our mere presence has been enough to deter abusers from going after our kids. I pray that will continue.
But, as I told one lady: "I won't ask my members to be sacrificial lambs. If the perp is known to be violent, we'll do whatever it takes to keep our kids safe".
When asked to clarify, I responded "That may mean my life. It may mean the abuser's. That decision is up to the abuser: I won't seek them out, if they just leave our kids alone".
Seems reasonable to me.