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"Educating our communities and elected officials about the needs of survivors in our local cities and towns requires year round focus. JDI is our pathway to informing and influencing the state and national agenda to end sexual and domestic violence." ~ Karen Cavanaugh, JDI board member and Executive Director of Womanshelter/Companeras, pictured here with a JDI delegation meeting with Congressman Niki Tsongas

'Take back our lives’

By CHRIS CURTIS Recorder Staff

 

TURNERS FALLS — Some lit candles in silence, others stopped to dedicate the flame to a friend or relative or to share personal stories of rape, incest and violence.

“My abuse started before I was born, when I was in my mother’s womb, because my father always kicked my mother in the stomach when she was pregnant,” said Betty Guetti of Greenfield.

“My father tried to stop my voice because he would throw me accross the room each time I spoke,” Guetti said. “Now my voice is raised.”

Around 50 women, children and men gathered in Peskeomskut Park Thursday evening to support survivors of domestic violence and to honor and remember those who did not survive their abusers, a handful of the dead represented by plywood silhouettes.

Toni Troop, director of communications for state advocacy group Jane Doe Inc. urged attendees to become advocates for change, both politically and in their personal lives.

“If we do not raise our voices, you can’t expect other people to care about our issues,” Troop said, asking the audience to vote and to call, write or visit local, state and national officials.

 

“We believe that if we join together our voices will be heard by those decision-makers whether they be in Turners Falls, Springfield or Boston or Washington, D.C., or on the campaign trail,” Troop said.

Troop said deaths caused by domestic violence can be prevented if people keep their eyes open to the signs and are prepared to help.

“We believe very much that domestic violence homicides are predictable and therefore they’re preventable, I look at the silent witness cutouts that are displayed throughout the park here and they remind us that we must do better,” Troop said.

Another speaker, Christopher Newman from the state Department of Children and Families, called on men to do their part, first by believing the issue is real, by offering assistance and support, and by providing a positive example for others.

The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition began the vigil and march in 1988.

NELCWIT’s Visioning Bear drum circle led attendees in song and volunteers read the names of those killed as a result of domestic violence this year in Massachusetts, releasing a paper lantern into the sky for each name before lighting candles for a march downtown.

According to NELCWIT, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, and an average of three women a day are killed by current or former intimate partners.

According to Jane Doe Inc., 22 were murdered this year.

Having survived years of violence and incest, Guetti said she has been happily married for 25 years and as a public speaker seeks to prove that domestic abuse is survivable.

“It is possible to get help, recover, and have a wonderful life beyond it,” Guetti said.

Based in Greenfield with offices in Athol, Orange, Buckland, and Turner Falls, NELCWIT offers programs and services for victims of abuse with a 24-hour hotline at 413-772-0806 or tollfree at 888-249-0806.


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