'Angels' of domestic violence response teams are lifeline for victims
CAMDEN-“My father gave me away,” the 45-year-old Camden County woman recalled of her wedding.
“I was very happy back then, and so was he.”
Things soon changed for “Diane,” whose real name is being withheld by the Courier-Post because — like countless other South Jersey women — she is a victim of domestic violence.
Diane’s 18-year marriage was marred by emotional and physical anguish, control and secrecy. With the help of local services and responsive advocates, that’s no longer the case.
Diane was last struck by her husband in 2011, one of about 70,000 domestic violence incidents reported in New Jersey that year, according to state police statistics.
And those are only the documented offenses.
During October’s Domestic Violence Awareness month, it’s telling to break down those state numbers by county: Gloucester, 2,736; Burlington, 3,985; Camden, 6,536.
Despite the high incidence of violence, advocates are “here to end it,” insisted Jeey Moncayo, the case manager at Camden County Women’s Center who helped Diane.
“I could call her any time, and she would extend herself and talk to me, calm me down,” Diane said of Moncayo.
At the state level, innovative, anti-violence efforts include a program that allows victims to address judges via video — from hospitals or safe houses — while requesting a temporary restraining order.
Available in Camden and Gloucester county hospitals, and Camden and Burlington county safe houses, the program is funded by the federal Violence Against Women Act.
On the county level, individuals, centers, shelters and response teams are part of a multilayered effort to fight domestic violence and help victims recover.
Teams run by the county consist of volunteers and staff members who are on call at all times to provide victims emotional and legal support.
Volunteers often frequent police stations, hospitals and courts to guide people through the reporting process. Besides making sure a victim knows the free options available, the teams provide an emotional safe haven of sorts, or even access to a physical shelter.
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