Duo aims to help vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

Duo aims to help vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEWMAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

When her niece be­came in­volved in a vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ship af­ter high school, Rose­mary Raiman used her early ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing for a com­mu­nity ac­tion agency in up­state New York to help guide her through the court sys­tem — and away from her abuser.

“She had some­one who be­lieved in her and wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was. She was able to re­move her­self from that sit­u­a­tion,” Raiman said. “We were one of the lucky fam­i­lies. It’s not al­ways that way.”

Raiman, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence co­or­di­na­tor for the State’s At­tor­ney’s of­fice, along with Fern Brown, re­tired do­mes­tic vi­o­lence co­or­di­na­tor for Charles County Cir­cuit Court, formed Ad­vo­cates Work­ing for Vic­tims in Cri­sis in 1999.

The pair met four years ear­lier and bonded over their “de­sire to make a dif­fer­ence for vic­tims of abuse,” Brown said. They op­er­ate through covert meet­ings with in­di­vid­u­als in church park­ing lots, gas sta­tions, in cof­fee shops to de­liver bas­kets of food, bags of clothes or what­ever the fam­ily needs.

Raiman calls them “cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion mo­ments,” where some­one needs help at the last minute. Raiman and Fern al­ways make an ef­fort to an­swer the call.

At any given time, Raiman said she can have eight to 10 peo­ple on her speed dial. Her sup­port ranges from a sim­ple text mes­sage to help­ing vic­tims es­tab­lish a safety plan of lock­ing doors, check­ing bushes out­side the house, ex­chang­ing chil­dren in a public space, to ac­com­pa­ny­ing vic­tims to the court house and help­ing them ar­tic­u­late their abuse to a judge. Last year, she said she spoke with close to 1,500 in­di­vid­u­als in do­mes­ti­cally vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tions.

“We have a pas­sion for women to know they are wor­thy, do not de­serve to be yelled at, called hor­ri­ble names, be hit, kicked, spit on. It’s de­grad­ing, a hid­den se­cret they don’t want to tell but they can’t al­ways cover up the bruises,” Raiman said, adding that abuse is as of­ten “black and blue of the heart,” as much emo­tional dam­age as it is phys­i­cal. “Peo­ple don’t like to talk about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, they don’t want to hear about it. They ask why she didn’t just leave and I say, why couldn’t he just be­have?”

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Hot­line, more than 12 mil­lion women and men over the course of a year are vic­tims of rape, phys­i­cal vi­o­lence or stalk­ing by an in­ti­mate part­ner in the United States. Raiman said the ma­jor­ity of cases she sees are from abused women, but the de­mo­graph­ics don’t stop there.

“Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth that vic­tims are a cer­tain some­one. Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence knows no bounds to any race, creed or color, and it’s not about love, it’s about power and con­trol over an­other per­son,” Raiman said. “It’s sad and it’s hap­pen­ing and it’s real and it’s hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where.”

They pair be­gan The Silent Wit­ness Project of Charles County, a na­tional pro­gram de­signed to rec­og­nize in­di­vid- uals who died from do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, as a way for those si­lenced voices to be heard and re­mem­bered. This year’s pro­gram took place Oct. 7 at the Greater Wal­dorf Jaycees and rec­og­nized of­fi­cials and agen­cies that come to­gether and in­ter­vene to help vic­tims. The pro­gram con­sists of a dis­play of red life-size sil­hou­ettes, each rep­re­sent­ing a real per­son whose life ended vi­o­lently at the hands of a spouse, ex-spouse, in­ti­mate or for­mer in­ti­mate part­ner or fam­ily mem­ber.

The pro­gram’s guest speaker, a woman named An­gela who re­quested her last name not be re­vealed, told her story with the hope of in­spir­ing others to speak out and seek help.

An­gela had been in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship with her ex-fi­ancé for the ma­jor­ity of their six-year re­la­tion­ship. Though she tried to es­cape sev­eral times, An­gela said his ma­nip­u­la­tive and con­trol­ling be­hav­ior lim­ited her op­tions.

“My prior job put a re­strain- ing or­der on him and they fired me and then I was solely fi­nan­cially de­pen­dent on him,” An­gela said in a phone in­ter­view. “He ended up tak­ing my car and he slowly alien­ated me from my fam­ily and friends.”

Though she had en­dured abuse since six months in to their re­la­tion­ship, An­gela said she never thought her son’s safety was in jeop­ardy un­til two years ago when her ex-fi­ancé hit their then 5-year-old.

“For a long time he was an excellent fa­ther and al­ways made sure he was taken care of and once he stripped ev­ery­thing away from me and I was de­pen­dent on him, it was like I couldn’t put my child through be­ing home­less,” An­gela said. “So I thought I could suck it up and take a hit or two as long as he had food in his stom­ach and a warm place to live, and that’s why ev­ery­thing changed when he beat my son.”

An­gela said she was se­cretly mak­ing ar­range­ments for her and her son’s de­par­ture when her for­mer fi­ancé dis­cov­ered her plans and at­tacked her, held her hostage and beat her for about five hours. An­gela man­aged to es­cape and was flown to R. Adams Cow­ley Shock Trauma Cen­ter in Bal­ti­more, where de­tec­tives in­ter­viewed her and turned her onto the ad­vo­cacy pro­gram as well as Rose­mary and Fern.

Over the last two years, An­gela has been able to re­coup much of what she lost. She has a full-time job, a ve­hi­cle, a home and is work­ing to re­gain cus­tody of her son, who has been liv­ing with her ex-fi­ancé’s mother. Her ex-fi­ancé re­ceived a life prison sen­tence af­ter be­ing charged with at­tempted mur­der and sex­ual as­sault, among other charges.

An­gela cred­its the moral and coun­sel­ing sup­port she re­ceived from Rose­mary and Fern as the pri­mary tools that helped her re­cover.

“It meant ev­ery­thing,” An­gela said of the sup­port she re­ceived. “I lit­er­ally would not be where I am now with­out their sup­port and their care, en­cour­age­ment and guid­ance on the re­sources that were avail­able and get­ting things set up for me. It’s hard when you leave and very dis­cour­ag­ing, and I knew that I had to get my life back — I just didn’t know how to go about it.”

Raiman said work­ing with vic­tims can be a “sad job” when some­one re­turns to their abuser or are not ready to leave. In those times, she said, “You have to be there for each time they call.”

“When they do make it out and say they went back to school or re­ceived cus­tody of their chil­dren, that’s won­der­ful and why we do this,” Raiman said. “And that’s when we know some­one made it out and was able to over­come this.”

Brown said local or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Or­der of the East­ern Star – Truth Chap­ter No. 19 Bryans Road and In­dian Head Moose Lodge No. 1712, of­ten donate food, clothes and toys when they’re asked for. Raiman said the pair have con­nec­tions to agen­cies through­out South­ern Mary­land, so there is al­ways some­one to help out and lend a hand.

“Call some­body,” Raiman ad­vised. “Reach out and there’s al­ways help some­where. You just have to find it and con­nect them.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton, far left, and Charles County Com­mis­sioner Peter Murphy, far right, show sup­port with pro­gram founders Fern Brown and Rose­mary Raiman for The Silent Wit­ness Project of Charles County, which aims to give voices to and re­mem­ber those who have been si­lenced for­ever by do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Jen­nifer Mitchell, an at­tendee of The Silent Project event, reads the mes­sage of a silent wit­ness vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. The red sil­hou­ettes rep­re­sent a per­son whose life ended at the hands of a part­ner or ex-part­ner.

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