Seeking to expand awareness of its services, a local organization dedicated to helping people caught in abusive relationships will hold a domestic violence forum next month at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer.
In possession of increasing state funding and private grants, Battered Women’s Resources Inc. (BWRI) finds itself with the ability to offer its services farther afield than the immediate area surrounding its home offices in Leominster. For that reason, the group has chosen to hold a forum hosted by a number of medical and law enforcement officials to help make their presence known among local residents.
“BWRI offers services that people living in the Acton/Littleton/Ayer/Groton area can access,” said Brenda Taylor, a volunteer with the organization. “The thing is, we need to introduce the agency to the area, out to the suburbs. Everybody thinks it’s just a shelter, but it offers other services as well.”
Founded in 1978 by a group of local businesswomen, BWRI is dedicated to creating an “ideal world of nonviolence and equality” where women and children can live in peace free from the fear and anxiety of abusive relationships. To accomplish that goal, the agency has concentrated its efforts in educating the public about the facts surrounding domestic violence as well as doing what it can to intervene and prevent its occurrence.
According to statistics, each year 7 percent or 3.9 million women are physically abused and 37 percent are verbally or emotionally abused by someone with whom they have a close relationship. In addition, 95 percent of assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women and 30 percent of women reporting to emergency rooms have had injuries caused by battering.
Although women are the primary victims of battering, some men can be the victims of spousal abuse as well and children too are often victims. Domestic violence is defined as “a continuous pattern of behavior” by one person against someone else in a close relationship with him or her including a spouse, child, parent, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Reasons for seeking such control are varied and complex ranging from suspicion and jealousy to fear of loss; all motivations that can be kept well hidden from those outside the relationship of a batterer and victim. For that reason, those outside the abusive relationship sometimes find it hard to believe that such a thing is going on, making it even more difficult for a victim to come forward seeking help.
“The work that BWRI does is important because people who are battered is a social issue,” said Taylor. “People who are in a situation where they are helpless need personal assistance and need to be empowered and that’s what BWRI offers them. The agency provides people who are coming out of an unhealthy situation with a new beginning. It takes a lot of will power for a person to walk away from a situation like that and often they can’t do it by themselves.”
Originally known as the Montachusett Taskforce on Battered Women, the group changed its name to the more self-explanatory Battered Women’s Resources, Inc. in 1981. With a staff of 20 employees plus such volunteers as Taylor, the group has offices in Gardner and Leominster with an active service area that includes the Montachusett region of north Worcester and the northwest Middlesex Counties where towns such as Fitchburg, Pepperell, Shirley, Townsend, Harvard, Ayer and Groton are located.
“I don’t think that people in our area are aware of the services the agency provides,” said Taylor of BWRI. “That’s why they are holding the forum, to make people aware that the agency is in the community and the services it provides are for everyone. People in desperate personal situations need to know that they’re not helpless. That’s especially important in an affluent area such as Groton where you have a lot of professionals. Sometimes being well educated and making a good salary makes it more difficult for people like that to step out and ask for help.
“People associate domestic violence with low income areas but the reality is that it’s across the board, involving people in all kinds of financial situations,” continued Taylor. “It’s everywhere, unfortunately, but we need to have victims know that there is help for them.”
The domestic violence forum is scheduled to be held on Oct. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Nashoba Valley Medical Center. The panelists are to include such community leaders as Ayer Chief of Police Richard Rizzo, BWRI counselor Lysa Mosca, Nashoba Valley Medical Center nurse practitioner Judy Pentedemos, Deborah Cohan of Emerge, and BWRI educational coordinator Nicholas Howe. Other panelists could include medical professionals and members of the clergy.
“October is domestic violence awareness month and we are looking to reach out to Ayer and the surrounding community in order to provide services to that area,” said BWRI volunteer coordinator Yolinda Link of the forum. “We want to make sure that the services we provide are given to the people in that area because they are part of our service group. A lot of people just don’t know that we are here.”
“I think the forum is going to have a really good collection of people knowledgeable about the issues,” added Taylor. “It will help bring the issue to the surface and be a good way to draw attention to the agency so people will know it’s there. Also, the forum will be a great way to work in partnership with the Nashoba Valley hospital. It will take all such local agencies to work together to be successful.”
For more information on Battered Women’s Resources, Inc., visit http://www.bwri.com/