There was a heart-breaking murder in Hardwick, Vermont in the Fall of 2013, the result of domestic violence. The Community gathered its grief in a well-attended candlelight vigil hoping the beauty would be healing balm and the reverence an open door to resilience. Those present spoke in hushed tones: There must be something more we can do.
Anna Pirie, Executive Director of AWARE, our regional domestic violence intervention and prevention agency, invited those voices into her office, and Community Allies for Safety, Trust, and Respect was born. We meet monthly around a plate of fresh, baked goodies. Increasing numbers of Allies joined us, and we met for awhile at the United Church of Hardwick. Conversations deepened, and we migrated back to AWARE for more private space. Once again we outgrew that venue and now meet upstairs in Hardwick’s Memorial Hall.
Community Allies for Safety, Trust, and Respect includes Community Leaders representing AWARE, the Hardwick Area Community Justice Center, the Hardwick Police Department, HeartBeet, Roundtable Reconciliation, the United Church of Hardwick, WholeHeart and other committed, courageous, concerned citizens. Our first project was to encourage a reblossoming of a positive working relationship between AWARE and the Hardwick Police Department. Our then new Chief of Police, Aaron Cochran, signed up for a Seminar on Domestic Violence for Vermont Chiefs of Police. He formed a small group of colleagues who are looking for positive ways to address domestic violence statewide. His leadership inspired Detective Lehoe on the Hardwick P.D. to reopen a number of old cases involving domestic violence. Detective Lehoe conducted many interviews, which led to the arrest of a known abuser in the community. Community Allies recognized his efforts with an award given on April 29, 2015 in Memorial Park in Hardwick. About 50 people attended, including the entire Hardwick Police Department.
Community Allies for Safety Trust and Respect in collaboration with AWARE commissioned a video to commemorate AWARE’s 30th Anniversary (see www.awarevt.org/founding). Mothers and fathers of AWARE speak about how AWARE started and how it has grown—celebration indeed. They emphasize the importance of being present to victims of violence and call for a community where violence is not recourse for solving conflicts or for acting out pain or frustration.
Community Allies for Safety, Trust, and Respect hopes to commission a mural, painted by children and supervised by teachers, which welcomes people to Hardwick, a Community of Safety, Trust and Respect. We name the power of intention. We respectfully say what we want rather than complain about what we sometimes have. The mural is intended to invite everyone to treat ourselves and each other in safety with trust and respect.
Community Allies for Safety, Trust and Respect does its own difficult work of inclusion. Arlene Averill, a friend of AWARE, and Tara Reynolds from WholeHeart, Inc., are our fabulous facilitators. Here are some of the things we talk about. How do we include those who feel most vulnerable in our conversation? How do we include the economically disadvantaged, victims of abuse, and former abusers as our sisters and brothers, as they are? How do we attract more men into the movement? We want to hear their valuable voices. How do we stand in the tragic gap, as Parker Palmer from the Center for Courage & Renewal names the space between what is and what we know is possible? What are the ways that we can embody what we want to see in the world? We are the authors of our stories.
Marshal Ganz, a community organizer and lecturer at Harvard would ask, what are our stories of self; what is our story of us; what is our story of now? What is ours to do together now?
© WholeHeart, Inc. 2015