Domestic violence situations are never easy to navigate, but local police, prosecutors and domestic violence organizations assembled Monday night to educate the public on domestic violence overall and ways to get assistance
The forum, held by REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, featured Waltham Police Detective David McGann, Jessica Hollander of REACH, David Adams of Emerge, a program that educates abusers and David McMaster, a domestic violence prosecutor with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office.
Check out the four key takeaways from the forum, held at the McDevitt Elementary School in Waltham.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
· Domestic violence is not a one-time incident, Hollander said. It’s defined as a systemic pattern of behavior that exerts control over the victim in various forms including, emotional, sexual, physical, verbal and financial.
· One of the most powerful ways an abuser controls a victim is to isolate them, according to Hollander.
RESOURCES FOR DV VICTIMS
· The Waltham Police Department has a domestic violence unit that includes McGann and another officer, McGann said. McGann said his job is to follow up on reports of domestic violence, offer guidance to victims and make arrests if necessary.
· Programs for abusers: Emerge, a Cambridge-based program, works with abusers to help avoid abusive behavior. Adams, during a 40-week program, educates abusers about the impacts their behavior has on their victims and others. Over the past two years, the program has received 38 referrals from Waltham. That includes 29 from the district court system, two self-referrals, two from churches, five form the state Department of Children and Families.
WHY DO VICTIMS STAY IN RELATIONSHIPS
· Hollander said there are several reasons victims stay in abusive relationships. Sometimes victims are ashamed of being in the relationship and as if they others they know are judging them for being in the relationship. “They may feel a lot of love for the person that is hurting them,” Hollander said.
· While some many believe leaving the relationship will cease the abuse, Hollander said the period of time during which a victim leaves the abuser is often the most dangerous.
· Another reason victims often stay in abusive relationships – they are economically dependent on the abuser, according to Adams.
· Victims often avoid leaving relationships because they are afraid of going through the court system, McGann said. “I know I’d be very embarrassed to go up there and get a restraining order in open court,” McGann said. He said he hoped in the future Massachusetts could set up special domestic violence courts to ease the burden on victims proceeding through the court system.
HOW TO PREVENT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
· Individuals should consider what a healthy relationship is before entering a relationship, Hollander said. A healthy relationship, she said, focuses on equality and respect.
· Parents should be mindful of how their children are using social media and the impacts it could have on relationships Adams said.
If you are the victim of domestic violence there are several ways to get help. You can contact REACH Beyond Domestic Violence at 781-891-0724 and the Waltham Police at 781-314-3600.