In wake of Ray Rice video: Domestic violence hotlines a lifeline for victims

Rebecca Forand /South Jersey Times
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

More than six months after Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was seen carrying his unconscious then-fiance, now wife, out of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City a new video emerged Thursday showing the blow to the face administered by Rice that knocked her out.

While Rice's contract has been terminated by the Ravens and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely, it has shined a new light on the problem of domestic violence.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in their life with an estimated 1.3 million women becoming victims of a physical assault from her partner each year.

In New Jersey each county has a designated sexual and domestic violence service provider for victims.

In Gloucester and Cumberland counties that organization is SERV (Services Empowering Rights of Victims), which is highlighting the importance of having counseling and safe houses available to victims of domestic abuse. In Camden County SERV is the designated organization for sexual violence.

"They (victims) wouldn't have any other place to go if there weren't programs like this," said Gina Ridge SERV's director. "We also provide education in the community as well. If we didn't have these services the cycle of violence would never end."

SERV provides a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, counseling and support groups for male and female victims of domestic violence and safe housing for female victims and their children.

For victims of domestic or sexual violence, trying to get help or to leave the situation can be a scary situation. They are often fighting for their lives with little or no resources of their own.

"Many victims have no money. Everything they've had has been taken from them. It's like starting from scratch sometimes," Ridge said. "Not only do they need help to recover from the abuse, but also to start over."

With safe houses available in Gloucester and Cumberland County, SERV aims to provide a place for victims to go, as well as the myriad of services provided for those outside of their houses — all free of charge.

On Sept. 20 the organization will hold a 5K run/walk to raise money for its various services as well as to increase awareness of domestic violence.

"We want people to know what we're doing and that they can say something and they should do something," Ridge said.

The event will take place at 9 a.m. at Washington Lake Park, 626 Hurffville Cross Keys Road, Washington Township.

To enter the race or for more information visit www.cfs5k.com.

To reach the 24-hour hotlines call 1-866-295 SERV (7378) in Gloucester County, 1-800-225-0196 in Cumberland County or 1-866-295-SERV(7378) in Camden County.

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