News Sunday, October 7, 2001
Time to end the abuse

YWCA Week Without Violence corresponds with other similar efforts.

Statesman Journal
October 7

Dr. Bob Kelly sees the effects of violence daily:
Multiple stab wounds. Bodies beaten black and blue. Suicides. Gunshot wounds. Babies shaken or bludgeoned to death. Patients who repeatedly mutilate their own bodies out of hatred or a desperate cry for help.

All have become part of the routine in Salem Hospital’s emergency room, where Kelly has worked for nearly a quarter-century.

Over the years, Kelly said, “Guns have become the weapon of choice. Women have become aggressors. Children are being raised in a culture of violence.”

Now, security guards monitor the emergency room. Police officers keep watch over victims. And Dr. Kelly increasingly is threatened by out-of-control patients.

Ann Kelly sees a different side of violence. As a women’s self-defense instructor, she hears the stories of fear and helplessness from the victims and from those who fear they will become victims.

“People disclosed awful stories of abuse,” she said. “I thought, ‘What is happening?’”
Sickened by what they saw as a escalating cycle of violence, the couple decided to take action. Four years ago, they started the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting project.

“We wanted to do something to turn the tide,” Ann Kelly said. “Our goal is for everybody to be safe.”
The simple, yet effective nonviolence program, run out of the Kellys’ South Salem home, has since spread across the country and even internationally.

Next week, the YWCA of Salem will ask all area residents to learn and think about how they can prevent violence in their own lives and communities.

Multiple events make up YWCA Week Without Violence, Oct. 14-20, an annual campaign to promote peaceful solutions to everything from gang violence to domestic abuse.

“This is an opportunity for people to start thinking, ‘What can I do to end violence in the world,’” said Charity Krieder, YWCA spokeswoman.

YWCA Week Without Violence happens in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Week.

Organizers say the topic is especially relevant this year, as residents struggle to respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
They aren’t advocating pacifism and don’t oppose self-defense.

But, explained Charlie Wallace, Chaplain at Willamette University, “It is especially important to remind our children, and ourselves, that violence has no place in our daily lives.”

Area congregations are being asked to observe a moment of silence at Oct. 14 services.
Community workshops will explore how racism and sexism contribute to a culture of violence. The week will end with a night of Latin dance to encourage replacing violence with fun.

And throughout the week, schools in Marion and Polk counties will educate students on violence and safety issues and ask children to take the pledge of nonviolence written by Ann Kelly.

It goes like this:
“I will not use my hands or words for hurting myself or others.”

Participants also can trace the outline of their hand on purple paper and sign it if they wish.

“It’s a visual reminder — a symbol of your commitment,” Ann Kelly said.

Churches, businesses and other organizations are being asked to promote the pledge as well.

For the Kellys, the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting project has become all-consuming. Ann Kelly serves as the executive director, spending 50 or 60 hours a week in the organization’s offices, which have taken over the first floor of the Kellys’ home.

The couple’s three sons are involved as well. Rob, the oldest, also is an emergency room doctor.

David, a lawyer in Portland, helped form the nonprofit organization and obtain trademarks and copyrights.

And Mark, an actor, has produced a training film about domestic abuse. “Loves me, loves me not” is used in organizations across the country.

The family is helped by a handful of dedicated volunteers who operate on a shoestring budget. Sales of T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and tote bags bearing the “Hands” logo pay some expenses.

But much of the project’s funding comes from the Kellys’ pockets. For example, they paid $10,000 for an ad on a Cherriots bus that traveled Salem routes for two years.

Ann Kelly says the results keep her going.

Schools and organizations in 40 states and four countries have taken the pledge. So have dignitaries including Gov. John Kitzhaber, U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley and 39 other members of Congress.

The city of San Diego just signed on to the program. Ten thousand city employees will take the pledge this month, as will the San Diego Chargers.

Participants say it is making a difference.

At Oaklea Middle School in Junction City, for example, students repeat the pledge daily. Since the program began, assaults have decreased by 85 percent, fighting by 50 percent, vandalism by 56 percent and theft by 81 percent.

Students at Salem’s Liberty Elementary School also say the pledge daily.

“It does reduce the number of violent acts by children,” principal Joe Wehrli said. “There’s a nonviolent theme that permeates the whole school environment.”

Perhaps most rewarding for Ann Kelly was watching her 3-year-old grandson defuse a playground clash by saying, “Hands are not for hurting.”

“It starts with our children,” she said. “We can turn this around. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Tracy Loew can be reached at (503) 399-6779.

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