By Cindy Waitt, guest columnist
2012 brought school bullying to the front of the line of topics nationally, and rightfully so. It’s serious, it’s important, and it’s pervasive. The statistics vary. I’ll choose to quote the National Center for Education statistics of 2009 that state that approximately 1 in 4 high school students are bullied and about to 1 in 3 middle school kids experience the trauma of bullying in some form. As the Executive Producer of the documentary Bully, and the first major supporter, in late 2009, the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention is proud of its role in helping director Lee Hirsch and producer Cynthia Lowen launch the film and movement.
The good news about being a “hot button” issue is that people begin to line up behind the cause, bringing critical resources, media and policy makers together to look at solutions. That’s why we supported Bully, and the response has exceeded our wildest hopes and expectations. We think it’s a game changer, and we need game changers in the fight against violence and abuse.
But. . .let’s continue to make room in this discussion to talk about teen dating violence. It’s just as serious, just as important, and just as pervasive. Here’s what our partners at Futures without Violence say about that:
Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.
Could that be any clearer? I watched as everyone from Ellen to Anderson Cooper to Mike Huckabee interviewed Lee about Bully. Bless them, and all the other major media outlets who gave this time. I wish, though, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, that dating violence had been mentioned as part and parcel of any topic about kids brutalizing each other.
I’m also an Executive Producer , with Kit Gruelle and Gloria Steinem, of a film that’s just months from completion, called Private Violence. I ran into this project in 2005 in Del Mar, California, due to a connection made by a colleague. Once I met the amazing survivor, trainer, and activist Kit Gruelle, I was sold by her passion of telling the story of gender violence from all the perspectives. The film answers questions like “why doesn’t she leave”, explores the history of the movement, discusses how it’s viewed in the media and popular culture, explores the socialization of boys and how that can contribute to the problem, and seriously challenges our notions of the “typical” victim of gender violence.
I ask myself sometimes why Private Violence has taken seven years to complete and finance, where Bully raised the money for film production and post production within less than two years. I was thrilled when other major funders stepped up for Bully, but it’s been a longer and tougher road for Private Violence, even though we’ve had amazing champions and a broad base of supporters.
In the end, I’m proud of our involvement in both films, and challenge all of us to continue the discussion of violence among our youth, in all forms.
What do you think?
Editor’s Note: Private Violence artfully benchmarks best practice shelter service and raises the bar on the level of commitment, support, and protection every survivor deserves and should receive. To this end, I hope y’all will promote Private Violence extensively via social media, and I’m asking everyone to dig deeply to financially support the documentary so that we can break down the walls of silence about domestic violence and answer for all time the inane “why doesn’t she leave?” question that annoys every survivor. Kudos to Ms. Waitt and countless others who have helped support this documentary and to DV advocates Julie Owens and Kit Gruelle in North Carolina. Y’all rock!
Cindy Waitt serves as Director of the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention (WIVP), a board member of the Waitt Foundation, and the Kind World Foundation. Prior to her 20 year career in philanthropy, she worked with at risk youth and their families for 10 years.
Cindy serves on the National Advisory Board for the Future’s Without Violence International Center to End Violence, has been a member of the Clinton Global Initiative since 2006, and served as a judge in the Ashoka Changemaker’s 2007 competition “No Private Matter”.
Under her leadership, WIVP has been a lead supporter of the strategy of engaging men and boys in violence prevention through her support of Futures without Violence’s awareness and on ground campaign, “Coaching Boys into Men” and Jackson Katz’s “Mentors in Violence Prevention.” She sponsored a five year violence prevention in-school and community research project called the “Sioux City Project” and co-sponsored the first workplace bullying Zogby poll in America in 2007.
Cindy is the Executive Producer of A New Kind of Strength, a web based short film on the men’s movement to end domestic violence, that is being used in over 30 states and multiple countries. She is also the Executive Producer, with Kit Gruelle and Gloria Steinem, of the upcoming documentary Private Violence, the anti-battering movement in America and is the Executive Producer of the award winning documentary Bully.
Cindy has been directly involved in three national Ad Council Campaigns from 2002-2006 and is a co-sponsor, with AOL, Facebook, and Marlo Thomas’s “Free to Be” foundation, of a new 2012 Ad Council national bullying prevention campaign.
When not involved in philanthropic work, Cindy writes and paints. She is the daughter of the late Norman Waitt and Joan Waitt, wife to Eric Blumberg, mother to Ben, and sister of Marcia, Norm, and Ted.
- “Bully” to Receive Stanley Kramer Award [Variety] Michael De Luca was quoted:
‘”Bully” sparked a movement, sparked a shift in consciousness and rallied people of all ages to stand up against intolerance and hate. It’s a film that I believe Stanley Kramer himself would applaud, and we’re thrilled to recognize it with this honor.