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The Newton-Wellesley Hospital Domestic and Sexual Abuse Council hosted speakers that presented ways to take a stand against domestic violence during a Tuesday webinar.
“In the last year, in the year of 2021, there were 15 domestic violence homicides in the state of Massachusetts, so it is happening to our neighbors in our community,” said Lauren Brumfield, a licensed certified social worker and a community domestic violence advocate with The Second Step.
Brumfield was one of the keynote speakers of the webinar. She and other keynote speakers discussed outreach resources and myths regarding domestic violence.
The meeting began with a definition of domestic violence.
“It’s a pattern of behavior that one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over another person,” said Gabriela Wells, a licensed clinical social worker and a senior domestic violence advocate at The Second Step and another keynote presenter at the webinar.
The speakers stressed that abuse is about control, not necessarily violence. They also reframed the domestic violence “cycle of abuse” as a “wave of abuse,” because abusive patterns are not always a perfect circle, according to Wells.
“There’s a lot of misconception of what abuse looks like—often that it’s only physical—and we still kind of abide by that in a lot of policy and a lot of social understanding of abuse,” Wells said.
The webinar also addressed some common myths about domestic abuse. One commonly held myth that the speakers pushed back on is that domestic violence is an issue of anger control.
“Our fact is that abusers act deliberately and with forethought, and they are in control of their actions,” said Brumfield. “A good example of this is that abusers do not treat their boss the same way as their partner.”
The speakers discussed warning signs of abuse and how people can help those in situations of domestic abuse. They also addressed some of the most pressing barriers that prevent survivors from accessing the support that they need.
One of the major problems in Massachusetts specifically is the lack of housing for survivors, according to Lauren Nackel, an employee of REACH Beyond Domestic Violence in Waltham for the past nine years. REACH is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelters for domestic abuse survivors and helps them create long-term housing and employment plans.
“Systemically, the best way that we could access and provide more shelter to survivors is by addressing the housing crisis,” Nackel said.
Nackel said that people with family members and friends in abusive situations that deal with these issues also experience trauma, and they are welcome to call programs such as REACH for resources.
A major point of the webinar, and of this year’s domestic violence awareness month, which takes place in October, is that virtually everyone knows someone suffering abuse, according to Sarah Perry, the host of the webinar.
“Being able to recognize unhealthy relationships and to find support is really, really critical,” Perry said. “You’ve seen the statistics. They’re very sobering. Everyone knows someone who is in an unhealthy relationship, whether we’re aware of it or not.”