Friday, February 25, 2011

Women Aware

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying Shutterbug to the SmartTalk series, which featured speaker Barbara Corcoran. The SmartTalk series invites famous women such as Jane Goodall and Maya Angelou to share their experiences in enlightening conversations held in theatrical venues around the country. Women Aware, Inc. is a charity partner with the SmartTalk series currently running at the State Theater in New Brunswick, and I thought that you should know a little bit about their work.

I spoke with Phyllis Adams, Executive Director of Women Aware, Inc., before Barbara Corcoran's speech on February 15.  She was proud to inform me that Women Aware, the domestic violence agency for Middlesex county, is celebrating 30 years of service. Gloria Steinem was a keynote speaker at the 30th anniversary fundraiser and gifted $5,000 in matching funds as a result of her talk "Moving Beyond Abuse".

Gloria Steinem stated in her talk the necessity of moving beyond words in describing what we need to do about domestic violence. She said that "Thirty years ago, domestic violence was just called life."

Phyllis told me that Women Aware is committed to ending domestic abuse for all men and women. Women Aware, Inc. is the only domestic violence agency partnering with SmartTalk and is in a pilot program for permanent housing acquisition. Housing has proven to be essential for clients because it removes the client from the harmful relationship s/he may be in.

It is one of the first agencies to issue housing vouchers and in 2009 started the "Esperanza Domestic Violence Project," which raises awareness of domestic violence in the Latino community. Their work is supported through the Jessica Gonzales grant, whose three children were killed because the police didn't enforce a restraining order against her husband.

A person in crisis should first call the domestic abuse hotline. S/he might be referred to a shelter and eventually be supported through nonresidential services.

Phyllis Adams had some suggestions for anyone who is a victim of stalking/abusive behavior:
  • Document every incident with date and time. Think like a lawyer in recording harassing or abusive activity. The police will need to see the whole picture of the stalker rather than one or two extreme incidents.
  • If possible, invest in surveillance equipment to record the stalking activity around your house or apartment.
  • Carry pepper spray.
  • Modify your routines: try to change your route to work or school.
  • Get a large dog to accompany you when you go out.
  • Don't ever be ashamed about the situation and keep it to yourself! Make sure your neighbors know about it and show them a photo of the stalker if you have one.
  • If you are ever followed in your car, immediately drive to your local police department and put your hand on the horn. Do not get out of the car.
  • If possible, get the stalker/abuser's own family and friends to confront him about his aberrant behavior.
  • Even if the stalker is not in your town or county, make sure to file a complaint and get a restraining order from your local police department.
Women Aware is a 5013C nonprofit agency with state, federal, county aid and corporate and foundation grants. For further information, visit Women Aware to view a copy of their annual report.

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