BEVERLY — Julia Desmond was getting a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts yesterday when she looked across Cabot Street and saw a crowd gathering on the lawn next to City Hall.
She asked the parking meter attendant what was going on, and when he told her it was an event about domestic violence, she knew she couldn’t pass it by.
As Desmond approached the tent where the ceremony was being held, Mayor Bill Scanlon invited her to step in out of the rain.
Desmond then announced to the small gathering, “I’m a victim.”
Desmond’s impromptu appearance provided the perfect symbolism for the event, part of an ongoing campaign by the Beverly Police Department’s domestic violence unit to raise awareness of the problem.
In front of a large pine tree covered with tear drops representing victims that have been helped by the unit this year, Scanlon read a proclamation declaring the city a domestic-violence-free zone.
A table included literature about domestic violence and purple ribbons that Beverly police have placed on the antennas of their cruisers to show support to victims and survivors.
The department’s domestic violence unit plans to set up displays throughout the city for the rest of October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One display will feature several life-sized wooden silhouettes on Beverly Common, each one bearing the name of a Massachusetts victim who died due to domestic violence.
“Most people don’t think this happens in their community,” said Tina Nieves, an advocate with the Beverly Police Department domestic violence unit, which is marking its 10th anniversary. “What better way to show that it does happen here.”
Although the tree next to City Hall was covered with 500 tear drops, Sgt. Phil McCarthy, who supervises the domestic violence unit, said that represents only half of the more than 1,000 victims the unit helps every year.
“There’s not enough room on the tree for all of them,” McCarthy said.
Desmond, 40, praised Beverly police for assisting her when she was victimized. She said it’s important for everyone, both victims and perpetrators, to get help.
“I want this not to happen to anyone else,” she said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.