by Amal Ali ('21) and Mytreyi Sureshkumar ('21)
On October 13, the South Brunswick Commission on Women (SBCW) hosted its annual walk at the South Brunswick Senior Center in support of the movement against domestic violence. Their mission is to reach out to victims who have been personally affected by domestic violence and to raise awareness.
SBCW Student Commissioner Nikita Arya said, “I’m happy to see how much people care about domestic violence, especially because it’s regularly looked upon as ‘taboo’ in some communities.”
The event began at 2 pm with presentations on the importance of talking about domestic violence from Women Aware, Womanspace, SB Police, and The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. Attendees donated care packages that were then distributed to women’s shelters and organizations that help victims recover and get back on their feet.
Susan Adams, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Outreach at Womanspace, said, “Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate in age, gender, color. It affects all people.”
Womanspace and Women Aware are sister organizations dedicated to making women feel safe and comfortable talking to someone about their experiences of abuse. Womanspace does work in Mercer County and Women Aware is focused on Middlesex County, but some of their services both include safety planning, counseling and housing assistance. They also run a 24-hour hotline that is available to anyone experiencing domestic violence.
Women Aware Assistant Executive Director Maria Betanoz said, “Middlesex County has final restraining order hearings every single day. Differently than other counties where hearings are scheduled a couple of days a week, we are heard every day. There are over 5000 incidents reported every year.”
South Brunswick Police Officer Raymond McCarthy offered information regarding restraining orders.
Before October 1, if one’s restraining order was appealed, they had to drive to Middlesex County Family Court in New Brunswick to stand before a judge.
Now, the process is simplified. Anyone can be connected to a lawyer and judge if their first restraining order is appealed, and have a second hearing over the phone.
McCarthy said, “If your first request is appealed, chances are your second one will be approved.”
After the informative presentations, the walk began from the senior center, passing the South Brunswick Public Library and Kingston Lane. Walkers carried signs with phrases such as “Break the silence on domestic violence” and wore purple, which is the color associated with domestic violence awareness.
About 80 participants walked, along with Student Commissioners Rhea Paul and Nikita Arya, who are both Juniors at SBHS.
Rhea Paul said, “It was uplifting to see everyone's energy during the walk, and how South Brunswick really came together as a community to walk for the same purpose; to raise awareness about domestic violence.”