It’s just a billboard, but it’s making a difference.
The message in Spanish on the billboard at the corner of Valencia and Duboce streets reads: “Domestic Violence is NEVER a private matter. If you need help, call (877) 503-1850.”
Since the message went up on March 21, emergency calls have increased approximately 12 percent, said Kathy Black, executive director of La Casa de las Madres. The sign at Valencia and Duboce is one of five Spanish-language billboards, all bearing the same text, erected in or around the Mission. The phone number connects to La Casa de las Madres’ adult crisis center hotline.
The billboard’s text alludes to suspended San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s alleged comment that the domestic violence charges against him were a “private, family matter.” The campaign, backed by the Domestic Violence Consortium — a group of 17 anti-domestic violence agencies — seeks to counter this narrative. It’s not OK, they say, and if you need help, call.
The billboards were funded through a San Francisco-based company called LoudSauce, a crowdfunding site that functions as a media buying platform. The anti-domestic violence groups put out a call for funding for the initial English-language billboard that went up on February 16 at Harrison and 10th streets.
In about four days, individuals pledged enough funds to pay for the first billboard.
Then, said Black, because they’re a bilingual organization, they raised enough money to erect five Spanish-language billboards. Pictures of some of the donors are featured at the bottom of the billboard.
Donations came from as far away as London, and included the contribution of a local 92-year-old woman who needed help from a family member to donate through the website. Donations have poured in primarily from San Francisco, Black said, especially the Mission, and mostly via social network outreach through Las Casa de Las Madres and the Domestic Violence Consortium.
Black was not expecting such an increase in calls. In fact, she expected the Mirkarimi incident to have a chilling effect — to frighten people from reporting domestic violence or seeking help. She was surprised and pleased when the opposite happened, she said.
No hard statistics are available yet, but the group’s drop-in center has also seen an increase in walk-ins, Black said.
Although the billboard campaign references the Mirkarimi scandal, Black wanted to make clear that this isn’t about one incident or one person. “This is about victim safety. We want to be sure that no one goes away thinking, I have to work this out on my own.
“It’s about the community’s response to violence against women.”