Area service providers share information, resources
By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Region – News of domestic violence close to home has been prevalent in recent months. October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Some area service providers shared related input for the benefit of Community Advocate readers.
June David-Fors, director of Northborough Family and Youth Services, said she's like the community to realize, “Statistics from police records, victims” service organizations and academic studies show that domestic violence exists equally in every socioeconomic group, regardless of race or culture. Victims can be of any age, sex, religion, marital status and from any socioeconomic group. And although most victims are women, men can also be abused, but are more reluctant to report it.”
Kim Nikula, Shrewsbury's Oak Middle School health teacher, covers a unit on the issue with eighth graders. She gives students the message: “Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship. No one should settle for less.” She encourages students experiencing problems to get help from a trusted adult or call hotline numbers she provides.
For youth witnessing domestic violence at home, David-Fors advised prioritizing safety, and calling police for imminent danger. Depending on whom the victim is, David-Fors added, youth can speak with their parent, keeping safety in mind. Because some victims fear seeking outside help due to abuser threats or retaliation, she said, a trusted adult or hotline is also recommended.
Laurie Sugarman-Whittier, director of Southborough Youth and Family Services, listed other potential sources of trusted adults.
“A guidance counselor, teacher, clergy member, doctor or trusted parent of a friend can support them in getting help,” she said.
As for helping a parent who is financially dependent on an abuser, Sugarman-Whittier advised: “They need to find help and support. At Southborough Youth and Family Services, we can help Southborough residents in this situation think about their options, and would likely also refer them to Voices Against Violence, which offer a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, a confidential short-term emergency shelter, counseling and support groups, information and referrals, and medical, legal and criminal justice advocacy.”
According to David-Fors, although parents believe they are keeping abuse a secret from their children, most children know. Even if children are not physically abused, they are more likely to have resulting emotional and behavioral problems, and are higher risk for abused/neglect, she said. David-Fors wants victims (who are often told by abusers they can's make it on their own) to know help is there.
David-Fors suggested ways community members can help victims: “Convey non-judgmental concern and consider saying, “”I am afraid for your safety and the safety of your children. I am here for you when you are ready or when you are able to leave. You deserve better than this. Let's figure out a safety plan for you.””
For teens in abusive dating situations, Sugarman-Whittier suggested, talking with a trusted adult and talking with a counselor who can help them think through the situation. A resource she recommended is the National Dating Abuse Hotline that specifically helps young people.
Per David Fors, teens can text the National Dating Abuse Hotline at 22522 and type in “loveis.”
Robbin Miller, a Shrewsbury mental health practitioner who hosts a cable show on disability issues, works to ensure equal support for all. “Educating and training staff in domestic violence centers on disability sensitivity issues is an utmost importance. Some women may feel uncomfortable calling a hotline due to fears of not being understood of their issues and medical needs,” she said.
Numerous resources, such as Saheli, which aids victims from Southeast Asian and other locales, do exist for domestic violence victims with unique needs.
Here is information for domestic violence resources:
- Voices Against Violence: 508 820-0834 or for 24-hour hotline: 1 800-593-1125.”
- National Dating Abuse Hotline 24 hour: 1-866-331-9474
- Saheli helpline (help for people from Southeast Asia and others) 866-472-4354
- Daybreak 24-hour Hotline 508-755-9030
- GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project (Formerly the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project) 24-Hour Hotline: 800-832-1901
- New Hope Domestic Violence & Sexual Violence 24-hour Hotline 800-323-4673 Spanish: 1-800-223-5001
- SafeLink 877-785-2020. For those hearing impaired TTY number 877-521-2601.
- Abby's House (shelter) 508-756-5486
- ADVISE helpline: (Against Domestic Violence in Shrewsbury Education (Project) 508-842-0056