Virginia Mohammed and Matthew Huffman both work at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Virginia is the advocacy coordination specialist at the Coalition, and Matthew is the public affairs director.
Virginia works with programs designed for individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes - called Batterer Intervention programs. She and Matthew spoke about their hopes for five years from now - when it comes to the state of domestic and sexual violence in Missouri.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Virginia Mohammed: I think there's the aspirational aspect of having a comprehensive prevention so that there is no need for batterers intervention and there is no need for victim services. That people understand and live healthy and happy lives free from violence.
But then there's also sort of the realistic part of me that also understands in five years - accessibility, I think, is a huge issue. We have large parts of the state were Batterer Intervention programs are not available or in more rural areas, they require large amounts of travel… are hard to get to.
And I think that's something that we need to work towards as a state, and then also, I cannot emphasize enough the importance for Batterer Intervention programs or people who are working with people who have committed domestic violence to be partnering with their victim services agencies.
I think that victim services and offender services are serving the same families, and there's very little that can't be improved by working together.
It comes down to safety, and it comes down to community wellness and it comes down to offering the very best services that the state can, when it comes to working with people who are involved in domestic violence.
Matthew Huffman: Well, this could end up being completely off topic, so I don't know that it's the one to use - but I started doing this work at the Women's Center at the University of Missouri when I was still in undergrad.
So, in doing this work now, for probably eleven to twelve years, as well, it's helped me to see all the intersections of sexual violence, dating violence, stalking - with larger things like public health and public policy. And how we really need to take a very thoughtful and comprehensive approaches and doing that at a more systems-level work.
I don't know. I know you and I've talked a lot about systems-level work - in just the need to really make sure that we are really thoughtful on that. Because the policies that we might be setting on the federal and state level are affecting people's lives every day and in different ways.
Matthew: And so, just making sure that we consider how our laws and our policies are going to affect the lives of women and children on any given Tuesday, in any community in Missouri.
Virginia: Yeah, I think that's a really good point because when I think about how this work has affected personally. I think that it's that very thing, it's the idea that this issue connects all of us in so many ways, and that domestic and sexual violence is not just something that happens to this group of people or this type of person.
That it is all walks of live. All backgrounds. All ages. Anybody and everyone can be affected by this issue, and I think as you do the work and you become more aware of domestic and sexual violence in our society, in our communities, people in your own life start coming forward and you realize how personal it is.