Clarendon Street Killing Highlights Danger of Domestic Violence
Somerville-based RESPOND is here to help men, women and all victims of violence in Malden and beyond.
The recent murder of Clarendon Street resident Brian Bergeron by his husband shines light on the misconception that domestic violence only happens to women. The tragic fact is that it occurs in 25 to 35 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships.
“Violence is happening in all intimate relationships at the same level,” said Jessica Brayden, executive director of RESPOND, the first domestic violence agency established in New England and the second in the nation. The SOmerville-based RESPOND offers services to residents in several cities, including Malden.
When people think of domestic violence, she said, they believe it is in the form of physical assault.
“It’s a lot more than that,” Brayden said, pointing out that domestic violence shows itself in many forms of control over one’s partner including financial restraint, forced sex and isolation.
“The best way to control can be isolation which makes leaving an abusive partner harder,” Brayden said. “The victim has no one to talk to and no other relationships after being estranged from friends and family.”
There are currently less services for men in same-sex abusive relationships as well as less recognition that the problem exists, she said.
“It’s difficult for anyone to come forward and admit being abused. The public perception is that you chose the relationship.”
Where to seek help
There’s a 24-hour hotline at RESPOND for anyone to call including victims of domestic abuse as well as their family and friends. The number is 617-623-5900.
Part of RESPOND's mission is to provide services to all victims of domestic violence including men and those in same-sex relationships.
“Our advocates are trained to tell people the different ways they might approach their situation,” Brayden said. “We are also available to talk to professionals who may be working with an abused victim and haven’t the training to help them adequately.”
She explained that the people who answer the 24-hour hotline are there to work with people how and when they want.
It’s important, Bayden pointed out, to give people the space to make their own decisions as to what they want to do about the situation.
RESPOND’s advocates work very hard to ensure that domestic violence survivors—regardless of their gender, orientation, culture or race—must not be forced to choose safety over returning to their abuser, she said.
“Unfortunately, sometimes this may mean sending them to shelters out of state. We must redouble our collective efforts to shatter barriers to service and eliminate the obstacles that prevent victims from finding refuge and support.”
The warning signs
Friends and family members can help, too.
Brayden said if they notice a loved one has a change of dynamics with a partner in public, or note any signs that the victim is being controlled, that’s a sign that domestic abuse may be occurring.
She also said it’s often an important warning if a person hasn’t been at work or usual social activities for a given period of time.
“Whenever I hear someone say, ‘I haven’t seen so-and-so for a while,’ my antenna goes up,” Brayden said.
If a friend or family member does determine a person is a victim of domestic abuse, she advises encountering them gently.
“It’s a big decision to admit it and to leave a partner,” Brayden said. “The best approach might be to tell the person that you are afraid for them and available to talk when they are ready.”
According to research compiled by RESPOND, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and one in four gay, lesbian and bisexual people will experience domestic violence in theirs.
Domestic violence appears to be on the rise across the state. In fiscal 2010, RESPOND had 500 requests for emergency shelter, a 50 percent increase from the previous year.
Unfortunately, Brayden said, domestic violence agencies have experienced cuts with devastating effects. Some programs have been forced to close their doors; others have had to drastically reduce the number of direct-services staff and/or limit the availability of services to those in need.
“Domestic violence occurs 24/7 across all socio-economic strata,” said Brayden. “Until we all accept that domestic violence is a significant public health issue and societal problem that requires the funding and support of life-saving services, victims will continue to be at risk.”
For additional information on RESPOND, Inc., visit www.respondinc.org.