Anti-vi­o­lence cam­paign kicks off

Ch­ester County lead­ers gather as a ‘Co­or­di­nated Com­mu­nity Cam­paign’ to end do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

DOWN­ING­TOWN >> Lead­ers gath­ered in Down­ing­town as part of the Co­or­di­nated Com­mu­nity Cam­paign to end do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence in Ch­ester County.

The cam­paign be­gan on Oct. 4 at the Down­ing­town Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing dur­ing Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Month with nearly 30 lead­ers. Down­ing­town Mayor Josh Maxwell, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Ch­ester County Fund for Women and Girls, the Crime Vic­tims’ Cen­ter of Ch­ester County (CVC), Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cen­ter of Ch­ester County (DVCCC), in­vited the District At­tor­ney’s of­fice, law en­force­ment, school dis­tricts, uni­ver­si­ties and may­ors to join the cam­paign. Maxwell, a Demo­crat, is run­ning against in­cum­bent Repub­li­can state Rep. Harry Lewis Jr. in the 74th Leg­isla­tive District.

The goal of the task­force lead­ers is to em­power the com­mu­nity to learn more about do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence. The more than two-hour dis­cus­sion fo­cused on res­o­lu­tions, what

cur­rently is and what can be done to ad­dress the vi­o­lence.

“We are vastly im­proved from where we used to be – the bad old days,” District At­tor­ney Tom Ho­gan aid about the days that cases would not make it to court, be­fore law en­force­ment, at­tor­neys and vic­tims had the tools.

He said now the district at­tor­neys have the tools to work with the po­lice to pro­tect the vic­tim with the as­sis­tance by the CVC and the DVC. He said they work with the vic­tims and let them de­cide if they want to press charges. He said it is dif­fi­cult for women to re­live what hap­pened to them dur­ing the trial with the me­dia re­port­ing on it.

“We man­age to get them through it,” Ho­gan said, “and usu­ally, win or lose, they are stronger at the other end of it be­cause of what the peo­ple in this room do to sup­port them.”

Deputy District At­tor­ney Michelle Frei said ad­vo­cates be­ing avail­able to the sur­vivor helps, by let­ting them know that they are not alone. Down­ing­town Po­lice Chief Howard Hol­land said CVC be­gan a pro­gram with the po­lice so that a vic­tim could talk to an ad­vo­cate while po­lice were on-scene dur­ing a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence case, not just af­ter­ward.

Lynn Klin­gen­smith, direc­tor of So­cial Eq­uity at West Ch­ester Uni­ver­sity dis­cussed the Green Dot by­stander in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram to re­duce vi­o­lence, and other pro­grams of­fered to help males un­der­stand their role and be­hav­ior, and how they can help. Klin­gen­smith said it is a com­mu­nity is­sue. Sev­eral speak­ers said their re­spec­tive pro­grams ed­u­cate peo­ple about un­healthy re­la­tion­ships and abu­sive be­hav­iors.

CVC Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Peggy Gusz, Tisha Brown, preven­tion/ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist and Carol Intin­tole, com­mu­nity outreach, dis­cussed the pro­grams of­fered in the schools to ed­u­cate kinder­garten through 12th-grade stu­dents and col­lege stu­dents about healthy re­la­tion­ships, kids be­ing able to state their bound­aries and if they are un­com­fort­able or up­set.

“When we have kids who are hurt­ing,” Intin­tole said, “they turn into adults who are hurt­ing.”

Terry Moody of the DVCCC said dur­ing pre­sen­ta­tions in schools they con­cen­trate on un­healthy re­la­tion­ships ver­sus dat­ing vi­o­lence. Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence af­fects one in four women and one in seven men. Moody said one in three teenagers are af­fected, male and fe­male alike. She said there needs to be more help for abusers to stop their be­hav­ior.

Some speak­ers said the be­hav­ior is learned, some­times in their homes.

Ho­gan en­cour­aged one so­lu­tion is par­ent­ing, which he said has to hap­pen at home in­stead of kids be­ing raised in their schools or by law en­force­ment. The lead­ers talked about how to reach par­ents to ed­u­cate them about cer­tain is­sues, in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia. Sev­eral school district of­fi­cials said they talk to par­ents about such mat­ters dur­ing back-to-school nights.

“I very much be­lieve that we live in a cul­ture which al­lows th­ese things to con­tinue to hap­pen,” said West Ch­ester Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Sabina Sis­ter. “I think we are rais­ing our men to fit this kind of very vi­o­lent mas­cu­line role, we ob­jec­tify and sex­u­al­ize women on a daily ba­sis.”

She said she tries to work with other stu­dents to change that cul­ture. Or it will con­tinue, she added.

West Ch­ester Uni­ver­sity lead­ers and Chris­tine Dun­leavy, of the Tredyf­frin/East­town School District, said they of­fer mas­culin­ity train­ing. Dun­leavy noted that the train­ing fol­lowed al­leged haz­ing in­ci­dents in­volv­ing its Con­estoga High School foot­ball team that re­ceived me­dia at­ten­tion.

Sev­eral lead­ers also noted that pornog­ra­phy is a fac­tor be­cause they said young kids be­lieve that what they see is nor­mal sex­ual be­hav­ior, but said some is ac­tu­ally vi­o­lent.

Ho­gan, among other lead­ers, en­cour­aged sup­port of state Rep. Becky Corbin’s House Bill 1581 that would make stran­gu­la­tion a felony of­fense. Specif­i­cally her pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would de­fine crim­i­nal stran­gu­la­tion as “know­ingly or in­ten­tion­ally im­ped­ing the breath­ing or cir­cu­la­tion of blood of an­other per­son by ap­ply­ing pres­sure to the throat or neck, or block­ing the nose and mouth of a per­son.” Corbin, R-155, is up for re­elec­tion against Demo­crat James Burns.

Carol Rothera of the West Ch­ester Area School District and Tina Forsythe of the Down­ing­town Area School District talked about the district pro­grams to help the stu­dents and to pre­vent vi­o­lence. Rothera said its three high schools of­fer “say some­thing” to em­power and ed­u­cate stu­dents to ac­cess adults if they see some­thing, hear some­thing or wit­ness some­thing that they ei­ther do not un­der­stand or think is wrong. The pro­gram fol­lowed the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing in Con­necti­cut in 2013. Forsythe noted that sev­eral pro­grams in­volve pos­i­tive mes­sages to sup­port stu­dents and to pro­vide them with safety re­sources and hot­lines.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Co­or­di­nated Com­mu­nity Cam­paign to end do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence in Ch­ester County be­gan on Oct. 4 at the Down­ing­town Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing dur­ing Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Month with nearly 30 lead­ers. West Ch­ester Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Sabina Sis­ter speaks to fel­low at­ten­dees.

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