San Ramon steps up to show support for domestic violence survivors

Cal High students, other local youth advocate for greater awareness


Photo by Jake Gerbracht

San Ramon City Hall lights up purple to show support for Domestic violence awareness month in October. Lighting up City Hall for certain awareness months and holidays has become a tradition in San Ramon.

For the month of October, San Ramon City Hall lit up in purple lights to honor survivors of domestic violence and the agencies committed to helping people affected by this issue rise in strength.

This display of solidarity was in commemoration of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which has been publicly proclaimed by the city of San Ramon for the second year in 2020.

What began as a National Day of Unity in 1981 has grown into a strong, multifaceted effort to create awareness and end domestic violence across the country. In San Ramon, members of the community have taken steps to show their solidarity with domestic violence survivors, especially during the global pandemic.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to me, means teaching people about different signs related to domestic violence…so they can help someone in need,” said sophomore Arpita Gupta, who is part of the Changemakers, a youth group affiliated with the local nonprofit Rewire Community.

Rewire Community is largely oriented toward gender justice issues and has engaged San Ramon in many events over the years. From celebrations of International Women’s Day to solemn vigils honoring the strength of victims, Rewire’s adults and youth show passion and empathy for their community.

In addition to their past efforts in raising awareness about domestic violence, Rewire and the Changemakers are reaching out this year to the community to listen, discuss, and show their support for domestic violence survivors.

“Our community needs to understand that domestic violence is not always physical,” Shailaja Dixit, co-founder and executive director of Rewire Community, said. “In communities like ours, it is often emotional, verbal, cultural, and financial.”

By igniting this conversation, Rewire and the Changemakers have created a safe space for honest discourse and discussion, and have even begun to lend a hand to survivors in the form of care kits assembled through community donations.

“The survivor care kits [are] essentially a community drive for a lot of essentials that domestic violence survivors need but don’t have access to,” said Vaidehee Durgude, a Monte Vista senior and Rewire youth leader. “It is, I think, really important to have a show of community support and the subliminal message that we have solidarity and compassion.”

The care kits, consisting of blankets, snacks, and other important items, have been delivered to women’s shelters and police stations in the Bay Area. The Changemakers have reached out to the community through their schools and social media, igniting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.

“We should not only believe survivors and lean in to be compassionate as a community, but we should actively support,” Dixit said. “There’s so much we can do, because we are influential, and we’ve got to use our affluence and our privilege to make a difference.”

For survivors, the hurdles can seem insurmountable.

“A survivor is often rebuilding their entire life, their entire community, their entire existence when they are getting out of a relationship and facing, oftentimes, questions from their family rather than support,” Dixit said.

Science teacher Joanna Condon, who has had her own experiences with students who have faced domestic violence, says her hearts go out to those students during this time of social distancing.

“School is often a refuge for these students,” Condon said. “I can’t even imagine what it must be like for [those students].”

Dixit said affluent communities such as San Ramon often avoid talking about domestic violence, which is seen as a reflection of cultural shame.

“There’s so much value placed on having [a] perfect family that when something happens that is unsafe and makes your family dysfunctional, people are afraid of talking about it,” Durgude said. “I think it’s really important during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to take away that stigma and have people more willing to be vulnerable.”

Citizens of San Ramon often find themselves distant from the harsh realities faced by domestic violence survivors. But after listening to facts and stories, teens and adults alike are gaining a new understanding of what domestic violence is and why it’s important to raise their voice.

“I’ve learned that even at a teenage level, domestic violence starts [in a way that] many people don’t understand that they’re going through a violent relationship,” said sophomore Sathvika Sitaraman, another Changemaker.

Teens also agree that open conversation and de-stigmatization is the key to change. By taking the initiative to read about domestic violence and listen to survivors’ stories, San Ramon citizens can step out of their bubbles and create real change.

“The atmosphere around the topic of domestic violence needs to be dissolved,” Gupta said.

San Ramon’s proclamation of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, requested by Rewire Community, is a step toward this open-mindedness in this city. Rewire’s message to the community is to look within for the spark of change.

Durgude described the importance of understanding that issues of domestic violence and abuse aren’t simply numbers, and they affect each member of the community in unique ways.

“These real-world issues matter because they’re not about the statistics people talk about,” Durgude said. “They’re about real individual stories that make up those statistics.” 

This recognition is what will help the San Ramon community humanize these issues and effect change.

“Our community has some ways to go to break the silence,” Dixit said. “But I think change is coming.”