JBWS: Committed to Ending Domestic Violence
Stab wounds… broken ribs… a punctured lung… broken noses… black eyes and fractured arms… these are but a few of the abuses Jersey Battered Women’s Service’s (JBWS) addressed in 2015 alone, according to its executive director, Patty Sly. “Victims have been thrown out of a moving car, run down by a car,
thrown down a flight of stairs, kicked, beaten, strangled and threatened with guns and knives,”
she explains all too sadly, adding: “Often the kids see these incidents. The need for safety and services is great.”
Sly continues: “At JBWS, we work to help each victim find safety, self-sufficiency, and peace, and to break the cycle of violence so that their children can be raised in a home free of violence.” Prior to heading JBWS for the past 10 years, Sly’s community service included holding a leadership role in the development and opening of Morristown Memorial’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center and serving as chairwoman of the United Way of Morris County.
A call to help victims of abuse…
What began as a hotline service functioning out of a kitchen, JBWS’s present day emergency shelter did not open until December 1978, which unfortunately, was tragically too late for two victims of domestic violence, Lois Gilmore and Rita Asencio. According to Sly, both women separated from their husbands and, fearing for their lives, called the hotline service seeking safety. “Lois was shot and killed at a Randolph hair salon, where she worked. Rita and her mother were killed in Rita’s parents’ home in Boonton,” Sly divulged. “The community’s outrage at these tragic murders spurred the fundraising necessary to open the shelter.”
Today, the now full-service agency houses 20 women and 30 children facing many challenges, including underemployment, limited affordable housing, childcare and transportation expenses, and medical issues. Hundreds more are being served through counseling services, and over 1000 are attended to in the organizations legal advocacy program. Sly says, “This past year, 12% of our residential clients were pregnant.” She notes that pregnancy tends to escalate the violence as the abuser loses control of the victim’s attention. Her hope is that by successfully supporting these women in their transition to self-sufficiency, those as-of-yet unborn children may have a real chance of living in a home free of violence.
As for those children already living in violent homes and having to reconcile their love of their father with the abuse he directs at their mother, Sly points to them as being at higher risk of being in abusive relationships as adults because of their experience. “So our work is two-fold,” she says, “to provide immediate safety and assist in the healing process, and to give the understanding and tools to ultimately break the intergenerational cycle of violence.”
Moving forward, one of the organization’s newest initiatives is the creation of the Family Justice Center, which opened in early 2016. Located in the Morris County Administration and Records building, representatives of JBWS and its partners at the Prosecutor’s office, police, courts, attorneys, immigration experts and sexual assault center make accessing services easier and allow all of the partners to work more effectively together.
Answering the call for HELP…
To keep all of this going, JBWS needs to raise every dollar it spends each year through grants and contributions. With funds designated for specific needs, JBWS estimates that $100 provides four hours of support, safety planning and advocacy for a victim; $300 provides domestic violence counseling during a typical shelter stay; $500 allows five women to seek restraining orders with legal advocacy services; $1000 gives one week of emergency shelter, food and counseling for a woman and her children; and $10,000 affords a family six months of counseling, advocacy services and safe living space in the transitional living facility while achieving education and employment goals.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in five women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Domestic violence continues to be an epidemic problem both in the United States and worldwide, resulting in mental and emotional scars, severe injury and death. With the help of donors, educators and volunteers, JBWS strives to end the torture that countless local women endure at the hands of their abusers, enabling them to start renewed lives with positivity, independence and confidence.
Louise B. Hafesh is an award winning artist and journalist and president of AdVantage Publications, Inc., an international editorial syndicate. She can be reached at: www.louisebhafesh.com.