By DAVID Maroney
Domestic violence is a delicate subject to address but silence is not golden in this case and often leads to further abuse when sheltered by silence.
The Reading Police Department recently addressed domestic violence directly by embedding its first domestic violence counselor through RESPOND, a pioneer agency in the movement to end domestic violence. To financially support this effort, RESPOND obtained a grant funded by the Victims of Crime Act to imbed a domestic violence advocate within the Reading and Woburn Police Departments.
RESPOND began 45 years ago and expanded into local police departments in Malden 4 years ago and Melrose as well as Wakefield 2 years ago. Their counselor partnerships were very successful in those municipalities resulting in formally expanding into the Reading and Woburn Police Departments where they were enthusiastically received. .
Sammy Salkin joined the Reading and Woburn Police Departments this past July to serve as the independent, dedicated resource for victims of domestic violence and to strengthen relationships with the police in functioning as a liaison between them and RESPOND.
While RESPOND had been informally working with our Police Department for years, now Sammy is able to offer crucial and confidential safety resources, find housing, apply for applicable government benefits, and navigate the court process. Since July, RESPOND has made over 500 calls to survivors in Reading and Woburn letting them know that they are not alone and that help is available to them if they need it.
RESPOND is a pioneer in the movement to end domestic violence, is New England’s first domestic violence prevention agency and the second in the nation. Their work began in the early 1970’s when four women from Somerville started a grassroots effort to support victims of domestic violence by opening their own homes as safe havens for women fleeing abuse. Since then, they have provided life-saving shelter, a crises hotline, support services, training and education to more than 10,000 members of the community each year. Services are free, confidential, and available to all survivors of domestic abuse---women, men, teens, children, and people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
To give the Reading effort more visibility, our Police Department recently hosted a 2-day viewing of “The Clothes Line Project” which gave survivors the opportunity to share their story and demonstrate their strength by hanging hand painted signs on shirts with their expression of accomplishment in defeating domestic violence. It was held in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month according to Deputy Chief David Clark.
Attendance at the project over the two days was better than anticipated according to Sammy Salkin. Those who attended were struck by the powerful narratives displayed on the shirts. Several attendees also expressed how excited they were to learn about RESPOND’s partnership with the Reading PD and asked how they could get involved in the efforts to end domestic violence.
The “Clothes Line Project” is a national one that started in 1990 on Cape Cod by the Cape Cod Women’s Defense Agenda. Since then, organizations across the country participate in the project each year to raise awareness about domestic violence and let survivors know they are not alone. More information on the Clothes Line Project can be obtained at http://clotheslineproject.info/about.html.
Sammy believes that abuse happens among people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, socio-economic and education levels. While most abusers tend to be men, it is also possible for women to be the primary aggressor in a relationship and for domestic violence to happen in same sex relationships. It often escalates if left unreported.
She says that some early warning signs of abuse include constant calls or text messages, calling you derogatory names, isolating you from your friends and family, controlling your clothes choices, controlling your finances/money, or throwing/punching objects. If you think that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, the most important thing you can do is to let them know you are “there for them” and avoid victim blaming. Every person deals with issues differently, and the best thing you can do is let them know that you are a safe person to talk to and that you will help them whenever they are ready.
According to Sammy, many people believe that in a smaller town like Reading that domestic violence would not be an issue. However, she says that domestic abuse is an issue in our town and we all have to work together to support survivors. The Reading Police are an invaluable partner, takes the issue of domestic abuse seriously and are committed to ensuring that survivors have access to the services they need. Crucial steps for the community in general are to continue to educate itself on what domestic violence is and help provide access to resources for those in need.
Sammy would like the Reading Community to know that there are options available for those in abusive relationships. People in abusive relationships often feel extremely isolated, and the people in their lives frequently do not know how to help them. She wants the Reading community to know that they are not alone and that RESPOND and the Reading Police can help. She strongly urges that anyone having questions about domestic violence, how to support a loved one, or how to access resources available for survivors, to call RESPOND 24-7 at their hotline at 617-623-5900.
Sammy Salkin has a background in Public Health. She interned with RESPOND during college and was “inspired by the incredible and tireless work that RESPOND does to support survivors and wanted the opportunity to be part of such an incredible team”. She began to work full time at RESPOND right after college graduation.