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RESPOND Inc. Acts as a Lifeline for Domestic Abuse Victims

By S. Mathur

For over forty years, RESPOND has been helping those suffering from domestic violence to find the help they need. As one of the first domestic violence preemption agencies in the country, it has decades of experience in helping victims and those concerned about them to identify the signs of an abusive situation.

Executive Director Jessica Brayden says that the agency helps people impacted by abuse in a number of ways: "someone who is directly affected by abuse, a parent of a teen who wants to talk about how to approach the subject, a police officer responded to a domestic incident- or any one who has any questions about domestic abuse."

RESPOND helps victims to connect with certified domestic counselors for individual or group counseling and provides shelter for those escaping a dangerous situation. High Risk Teams ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and are also committed to holding abusers accountable.

There are also education programs in schools and businesses, because, as Brayden says, "Education is key factor in preventing domestic violence. Helping people recognize signs of domestic abuse is key in people reaching out for help. I am often asked, "is this abuse? Am I at risk?" People know that hitting IS domestic violence?but there is more to it. There are threats, harm to animals, stalking, obsessive jealously and control, forced sex and isolation among other indicators."

One of the first signs that a friend or loved one is trapped in an abusive situation, she says, is that they are cut off from family and friends: "Isolation is a big factor. When you notice that a friend or colleague is no longer 'around' I start to wonder what's going on with them. Abusers tend to isolate victims from family and friends- and this makes sense because the abuser can control the victim without outside intervention.

Victims may also begin to dress in clothes intended to cover bruises and scars. Their movements may be restricted and watched: abusers will limit freedom of movement and communication as well as access to money and bank accounts. A recent trend seen by RESPOND is the increase in teen dating violence. Children exposed to violent situations tend to become either abusers or victims themselves. In partnership with local schools, RESPOND offers teen dating violence programs as part of teen health classes.

Perhaps the best way to understand the importance of RESPOND's work is through survivor testimonies.

"If it weren't for Respond I can honestly say I would not be alive to tell my story right now. I had lost hope and thought there was no help for me. As soon as I called Respond, the advocate assessed how dangerous my situation was and immediately called the police to intervene. My abuser was immediately arrested and after three years, I finally live free from abuse."

"Thank you for supporting me during this difficult time in my life. I remembered what it was like to feel beautiful, joyous and happy again. Thank you."

The number for the RESPOND 24-Hour Hotline is (617) 623-5900.

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