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Renewing Our Commitment To Fight Domestic Violence

Send your local opinion pieces and letters to the editor to william.laforme@patch.com.

The following is an opinion piece from State Rep. Paul Brodeur:

In 1994, Tom Santoro’s 18-year-old daughter was killed by her ex-boyfriend. Lisa Santoro was supposed to attend the University of Iowa and experience the joys and challenges of college life. But all that was cut short when she became another victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is far too prevalent in both this state and this nation. Each year, women experience four million assaults or rapes. Men experience three million assaults a year. 1 in 3 women who are the victims of homicide are murdered by their spouse or partner. These numbers are a shocking reminder of the pain and loss caused by domestic violence and abuse.

If you are fortunate enough to have never experienced domestic violence, it’s easy to think of it as a distant problem that does not affect you or your community. The fact is that many incidents go unreported. Victims stay silent out of fear or shame and their suffering is kept in the dark. These people cannot and should not be ignored.

The costs of domestic violence don’t end with the physical. There is an immense psychological and emotional toll caused by this kind of abuse. What should be a special relationship based on trust becomes one of fear and anxiety. No one should have to be afraid in their own home.

But abuse doesn’t simply stay within the walls of one house. Each year, three million children witness incidents of domestic violence. The effect this has on them is devastating. These children are more likely to grow up with psychological distress and/or an addiction to drugs. They fall behind in school.  Worst of all, they are more likely to find themselves in abusive relationships. This is a cycle that must be stopped.

So many aspects of domestic violence stay secret. It is rarely talked about, but domestic abuse occurs amongst our elderly population as well. We need better outreach and better resources so that our seniors can receive the help they need and deserve.

This year, I was able to pass a measure in the 2013 budget that will create a special commission to study and improve protective services for elders. The commission will aim to increase public awareness of the problem and improve the mechanisms to report it. This measure is just the beginning, but it’s one that I believe will be beneficial to those who are suffering.

Since it is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to renew our commitment to the fight to prevent domestic violence. There are programs out there, on both the national and state level, committed to raising awareness about the domestic violence. Jane Doe, Inc. is a coalition of sixty groups and organizations dedicated to helping the survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. Based in Massachusetts, they are a non-profit organization and a force for tremendous good in the Commonwealth.

More locally, both Melrose and Wakefield have an Alliance Against Violence. WAAV and MAAV are community-based organizations that inform and educate citizens about relationship abuse, bullying, youth violence, and domestic violence. We need groups like this to educate the public and reach our youngest minds.

On October 28, MAAV will be holding its 17th Annual Walk & Candlelight Vigil. Starting at 4pm, all are welcome to the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School for activities, music, a vigil, and a 2-mile walk around Ell Pond.  The Vigil and Walk are great ways to demonstrate your commitment to ending domestic violence and offer a gesture of hope and solidarity to victims.  On October 30th, Team Brodeur will host a Guest Bartender fundraiser from 7 to 11pm at Absolutely Fabulous. Both of these events are great opportunities to get involved, have a good time, and donate to a very worthy cause.

After Lisa’s death, Tom Santoro began Dear Lisa: A Dating Violence Prevention Program. Tom has presented in our communities and has travelled the country, educating high school and college students so that they do not fall victims to the same mindless violence that took his daughter’s life. Too often, the solutions we need arrive after the problem has made its mark. This is a problem we can solve, and it’s one we must solve together.

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