Newton, Metro

Newton Police Official and Non-Profit Leaders Discuss Local Impact of Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence persists in Newton, where the median household income is almost $100,000 greater than the national median, despite a high standard of living, according to Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, the Newton Police Department’s public information officer.

“The numbers here are significant—domestic violence knows no socioeconomic differentiation,” Apotheker said. “It knows no boundaries. No matter what country, state, region, city, or town, domestic violence always finds a way to rear its ugly head.”

In Newton and across the country, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, aiming to raise awareness about intimate partner violence. About one in three women and one in four men report having experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time to shine a light on the issue, especially for people who think it doesn’t happen near them,” said Susan Ross, executive director of The Second Step, a non-profit that supports victims of domestic violence.

The Second Step, founded in Newton in 1992, currently serves over 800 victims of domestic violence, according to its Facebook page. Domestic violence reaches everyone, Ross said.

In Massachusetts alone, about a third of women and more than 30 percent of men have experienced intimate partner physical or sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking and harassment within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“It is true that everyone does know someone who has been affected by domestic violence, if not themselves,” Ross said.

The Second Step tries to connect those who reach out to it with permanent housing and other resources, according to Ross.

“Ultimately, the goal is financial independence and permanent housing,” she said. “We also have free legal services, which provide representation to survivors of domestic violence with family law, restraining orders, and immigration cases.”

According to Ross, The Second Step has received more calls for help in recent months.

“I had originally attributed that to the fact that summer was coming to an end and kids were back at school, meaning people were finding more time to reach out for help,” she said. “But I wonder if it’s also because people are seeing more stories in the news, posters on the streets, and awareness spread on social media. It makes me think there is some causality there.”

Moving closer to the winter months, the organization anticipates receiving even more calls, according to Gabriela Wells, a domestic violence community advocate with The Second Step.

“We will see survivors who are homeless looking for shelter in the cold months, people anxious about being trapped at home with an abuser, and kids in these homes as well,” Wells said. “The holidays are a tough time for survivors, so we can expect an uptick in calls soon.”

Apotheker said The Second Step and organizations like it are vitally important in Newton and beyond.

“The Second Step is an organization that helps women to become survivors, not just victims,” he said.

Newton-Wellesley Hospital hosted a webinar, “Recognizing Unhealthy Relationships and Finding Support,” on Tuesday, including speakers from the domestic violence awareness organizations The Second Step, Journey to Safety, BARCC, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence and One Love Foundation.

REACH Beyond Domestic Violence offers services similar to those from The Second Step, focusing on safety and shelter, community-based advocacy, education and prevention, and community engagement, according to its website.

Some of the more subtle signs of abuse are slow-forming and exist in patterns, according to Lauren Nackel, learning and development manager at REACH.

Nackel highlighted the importance of continuing awareness of domestic violence beyond October.

“We should also be finding ways to keep the conversation going, because domestic violence doesn’t just happen in October,” Nackel said. “We need to keep these conversations going year round.”

Wells noted that open dialogue is a key aspect of domestic violence awareness efforts.

“Opening the conversation between bystanders and survivors helps us understand what abuse actually looks like,” Wells said. “Our goal is to educate folks at the end of the day.”

October 26, 2022