HOLYOKE — Karen B. Cavanaugh said the domestic violence awareness event Thursday (Oct. 1) was to remember not only the killed but also the survivors.
“We are celebrating those victims and survivors who were able to leave abusive relationships and live independent, violence-free lives,” Cavanaugh, executive director of Womanshelter/Companeras, said in a pre-event video (see article link).
The “Remember, Celebrate, Support” event to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month was held at the Holyoke Heritage State Park visitors center at 221 Appleton St. It was organized by Womanshelter/Compañeras.
Among those speaking at the event were Police Chief James M. Neiswanger, Mayor Alex B. Morse and state Rep. Aaron M. Vega, D-Holyoke.
The event included a reading of the names of the 11 women and two men who have died from domestic violence in Massachusetts in 2015.
Womanshelter/Companeras has existed here for 35 years working to help people battered by domestic violence and to remember those who were murdered, Cavanaugh said during the event.
“Today is the first day of domestic violence awareness month and we are calling this event, ‘Remember, Celebrate and Support,'” Cavanaugh said.
Exhibits in the visitors center included information pamphlets and posters related to the history of Womanshelter/Compañeras.
Another exhibit called “An Empty Place at the Table” was intended to recognize the “individuality of each victim while raising awareness about the issue,” a sign at the event said.
Cavanaugh asked the gathering of 40 to 50 people for a moment of silence in honor of domestic violence victims.
Neiswanger, before his remarks, also asked those at the event to bow their heads in silence for the families of the victims of a deadly attack earlier Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
Despite such awareness events, police here are on a pace to make more arrests for domestic violence this year than last, he said.
“It clearly shows that all of us need to do more,” Neiswanger said.
In 2014, Holyoke police fielded 376 domestic-violence-related calls and made 146 arrests, Neiswanger said.
In the first nine months of 2015, police have received 205 domestic-violence calls and made 128 arrests, he said. That would be a 12-month pace of 170 arrests.
“We are here to remember the victims who lost their lives and to celebrate the survivors …,” Neiswanger said.
The Police Department’s “brave men and women” are committed to and more skilled than ever at dealing with domestic violence cases, he said.
“I am thankful to be here today to partner with Womanshelter/Companeras,” Neiswanger said.
Morse said the community benefits from the “tremendous asset” that is Womanshelter/Companeras, including its hot line for people in trouble to call, counseling and shelter.
“I want to thank you for filling that void,” Morse said.
Vega said it was important to break the cycle of domestic violence. Those who suffer through such abuse or through the witnessing of such abuse should be treated with compassion to help them avoid becoming abusers or victims themselves in their own relationships, he said.
“That’s something we need to instill in our young men,” Vega said.
Cavanaugh praised the help that Neiswanger, Morse and Vega have given to Womanshelter/Companeras, saying of the police chief, “He’s somebody who totally gets it.”
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni was scheduled to speak but told Womanshelter/Compañeras a few hours before the event he was unable to attend, said Susan E. Scully, director of development with Womanshelter/Compañeras.
The Womanshelter/Companeras 24-hour crisis-support line is (413) 536-1628 or toll free at (877) 536-1628.